Originally envisioned for use in cities with heavily polluted air, a new face mask has been reimagined in response to the novel coronavirus. ATMOBLUE looks sort of like a home gadget strapped to your face, but as you might expect, that makes it a lot more effective at filtering virus particles than the average DIY cloth or surgical mask.
Designer Leandro Rolon, who’s also CEO of a 3D printing company, says he created ATMOBLUE to address some deficiencies inherent in N95 masks, which are currently hard to come by. Perhaps most inconveniently, N95s are uncomfortable to wear and make it difficult to breathe, with humidity from your own exhalations building up between the mask and your face and fogging up your glasses.
The ATMOBLUE is more than just a mask. It’s billed as an “air purifier for your face” that actively removes 99.7 percent of particles (a notable improvement over the N95’s 95 percent). The secret to this gadget’s comfort is a couple built-in HEPA filter fans that push purified air into the mask so you can breathe normally, along with one-way outlets that push out humid breath.
The mask’s H13 HEPA filters can be used for up to 150 hours before they need to be replaced, which could potentially eliminate a lot of waste, since N95s and surgical masks are normally designed for one-time use. These last longer because, unlike conventional mask filters, they’re made of tightly folded layers compressed into a flat surface area. The filters block particles measuring 0.3 microns in diameter or larger, including viruses, bacteria, pollen, pollutants, smoke, micro-dust, odor, and more.
Three adjustable airflow control settings make it easy to account for situations where you’re breathing more heavily, and the positive air pressure of the fans allow you to breathe “effortlessly, with zero resistance.” Depending on which speed you’re using the most, the rechargeable system can run continuously for up to five hours before it needs to be plugged into a USB port to recharge.
Another big problem with N95 masks, especially when they’re used by people who haven’t been trained in fitting them properly, is that they don’t seal well enough around the edges. The ATMOBLUE features a dermatologically friendly soft silicone that forms a tight seal, but don’t worry, it won’t leave creases on your face. The adjustable straps enable it to fit any head size and feature soft foam pads for the back of your head and neck. And if you love the personalized look of a DIY mask but want more protection, the ATMOBLUE comes in four color configurations for a little bit of customization: smoke, pearl, cement grey, and light pink.
All units come with built-in software and a device management app providing real-time air quality indicators. There’s a little bit of a Darth Vader quality to it, especially in the black version, but is that really a bad thing?
The face mask’s creators explain that their “patented i02 air control algorithm allows users airflow to automatically adjust according to their activity. If the user suddenly picks up speed, say while working or exercising, the app automatically increases fan speed, reducing breathing resistance and offering more fresh air on demand. Over time we plan to release new updates to the mask for extended capabilities.”
The ATMOBLUE can currently be preordered on Indiegogo, starting at $129 for a single mask.