If you’re struggling to unlock your phone with facial recognition while wearing a face mask due to theoutbreak, a better alternative may be on the way. The Chinese tech company Huami, best known for its wearable devices, is working on a transparent N95-like face mask that can also clean itself.
Many cities already require their residents to wear masks in public andthey will soon make them mandatory on flights. Face masks have become an important part of our new normal. So far, shortages of N95 and surgical masks, both reserved for health care workers, have meant people are relying on .
But while these types of mask do help contain the virus, they have significant shortcomings. They don’t filter out small air particles, they have to be washed properly on a regular basis and they’re not well ventilated. They also make it impossible to unlock your phone with facial recognition.
Huami hopes to solve most of these problems with the Amazfit Aeri mask. It comes with removable air filters and will have built-in ultraviolet light emitters. By plugging the mask into a USB-C plug for a few minutes, it can disinfect itself after every use. This would allow each filter to be effective for one and a half months, according to a Huami spokesperson. That’s much longer than the current eight hours N95 masks are good for. (Note thatset by the US Food and Drug Administration, ensuring that the mask blocks 95% of all particles. It’s not clear if Huami is aiming to meet this designation.)
The Aeri mask would also be made with transparent anti-fog material so that enough of your facial features would be visible to unlock your phone using facial recognition technology like Face ID. And the modular design would allow it to house different accessories like an eye shield or a fan, which would make exercising with a face mask slightly less suffocating.
The company is currently making prototypes of its Aeri masks, but said it will likely take anywhere from six months to a year to bring it to market. Though it’s still too early for pricing, Huami’s spokesperson said the company is aiming to make it as “affordable” as the rest of its Amazfit products. The company’s Amazfit Bip smartwatch retails for $80, which is less than half the price of similar Fitbit, Samsung and Apple smartwatches.