To bring mask style and culture into the 21st century, Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am has designed a futuristic face covering that incorporates noise-cancelling headphones, Bluetooth capabilities, and LED lights.
“We are living in sci-fi times,” will.i.am told the New York Times, adding that “[The pandemic] is straight out of a friggin’ movie, but we are wearing masks from yesterday’s movie. So, I wanted to make a mask to fit the era that we’re in.”
He also wanted to solve a functional issue. “What I saw out there in the world was people had loose-fitted masks, and they had earbuds,” he told USA Today. “When they got phone calls, they took the mask off and the earbuds fell on the floor, then the mask fell on the floor, and then the whole point was pointless because everything got dirty.”
The Xupermask (pronounced “supermask”) is a collaboration between the musician and Fortune 100 company Honeywell, a business that already knows plenty about personal protective gear and air purifiers.
“When we were confronted with this idea of partnering with a world-renowned innovator to solve a very specific consumer problem around having a great performing and fashionable mask that you could use for the whole day, it was just an obvious fit,” says John Waldron, president and CEO of Safety and Product Solutions at Honeywell.
The Xupermask features dual three-speed ventilation fans and HEPA filters that can be replaced every 30 days. Made from silicone and athletic mesh fabric, it creates a seal around the face that keeps glasses from fogging and fits most sizes. The embedded noise-cancelling earbuds connect to devices via 5.0 Bluetooth and are designed to magnetically dock at the sides of the mask when not in use. The LED day glow lights, earphones, and microphone have a seven-hour battery life, but the components can also be charged while you wear them.
In true will.i.am fashion, the face covering was made to give the wearer that sleek “boom, boom, pow” look. In an interview with Complex, the rapper explained, “if you’re designing masks to inspire and encourage sneaker culture, a fabric mask is a flip-flop and this is a Jordan 3.”
He worked with Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez to create a covering that resembled a space-age, dystopian gas mask – the type of thing you might expect to see on the Black Eyed Pea’s next album cover. Fernandez is well-known for his work on iconic superhero costumes for movies like Batman and Spider-Man, as well as the spacesuits he created for Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 crew.
“Most of the things you wear feel very clinical, medicinal,” Fernandez said in an interview with CNET. “This one I think has that cool factor.”
will.i.am’s high-tech COVID-19 shield is not the first of its kind. Gaming company Razer is making a transparent, LED-lighted face covering that uses audio-processing algorithms to make your voice sound clear on the outside, and LG has announced a mask with battery-powered, built-in air purifiers. The Xupermask is the first to be on the market, though.
However, with a price tag of $299, excited fans may be asking “where is the love?” But apparently consumers are ready to “get it started,” as both mask styles sold out quickly on their April 8th release date.