Cover (Image: Um systems)

These innovations are designed to make wearing face masks a more comfortable, effective and sustainable experience

It has been two months since Singapore entered phase two of the nation's re-opening, and masks remain a compulsory form of personal protection in the public. And while there may be complaints about it—‘maskne’, shortness of breath, sweatiness, fogging of glasses, and difficulty in communication are common concerns—there's no denying that it is one of the most effective forms of protection now as we struggle to return to normal amidst the ongoing pandemic.

And while scientific efforts are now focused on finding a viable treatment and vaccine for the Covid-19 virus, there are also other innovations that are ongoing to improve our daily lives, such as making masks more protective and comfortable for daily wear. We scope out some of these innovative face masks designed by start-ups and how they are changing the game. Do note that some of these masks are projects in progress, so back them at your own discretion.

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On top of filtering out 95 per cent pollutants and contaminants in the air, UVMask is equipped with UV-C sterilisation technology to neutralise and remove 99.99 per cent of bacteria, viruses, and particles as small as 0.3-microns in the air in real-time—10 times faster than we can breathe.

Air is first sent through a high-efficiency air filter, then through a quartz chamber walls for sterilisation under two 265nm UV-C LEDs, sealed within the mask’s Sterile-Vortex before it is breathed in. The filtration system works both ways as well, purifying the air you breathe out for the safety of those around you. The UVMask has completed its funding on Indiegogo and Kickstarter and expects to ship its first masks in October.

Find out more at Indiegogo.

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C-Face Smart Mask

One of the common complaints about wearing a face mask is the obstruction it poses to speech. Words become muffled behind the mask, making it difficult to communicate with one another. Japanese startup Donut Robotics solves just that with the C-Face Smart Mask, which not only helps to transmits and amplifies your voice with clarity to another person’s smartphone via its speaker, but also transcribes spoken words to text messages or notes.

Even better—C-Face’s transcription function extends to language translation, allowing it to translate Japanese to eight languages including English, Chinese, Korean, and French. Donut Robotics’ first 5,000 masks will ship within Japan in September, with plans to ship internationally eventually.

Find out more at Donut Robotics.

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O2 Curve

The culmination of many years of research, O2 Curve is a primarily an anti-pollution mask designed to offer respiratory protection against airborne bacteria and viruses, as well as pollutants and particles. The mask’s components include an ergonomic medical grade silicone seal that is designed to fit most face shapes with an adjustable strap, an electrostatic filter charged with both negative and positive ions to attract, trap and neutralise particles from 0.1 microns to larger, and ergonomic shells that are interchangeable to match your style.

The mask was tested at the Air Pollution Research and Innovation Laboratory at the University of Waterloo and by Nelson Labs to be 95 per cent effective against airborne pathogens and 98.6 per cent against contaminants such as smog, vehicle exhaust, and smoke. The mask is already available for purchase on its website.

Find out more at O2 Canada.

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B2 Mask

The winner of the Protolabs Cool Idea Award, Breathe99’s B2 Mask target concerns regarding poor face seals, high waste and cost, and the manufacturing of face masks to meet demands. The reusable B2 Mask features an ergonomic fit that is comfortable, airtight, and flexible enough to fold in half for storage; and is crafted from durable materials—the face-piece can be cleaned by hand or dishwasher, while the overlay can be cleaned by hand or in the washing machine—for long-term use.

Breathe99 further addresses the issue of cost and wastage with the smallest and most affordable high-efficiency filters on the market. With low use, the filters can be changed every two to three weeks. That does not mean protection is compromised, however—the B2 mask’s filter technology provides 99 per cent of particle filtration efficiency against airborne contaminants as small as 0.1 microns, tested at Superior Felt and Filtration and at Nelson Labs. The B2 Mask completed its funding and began shipping out its first masks in June.

Find out more at Kickstarter.

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Gill Mask

A homegrown innovation in response to the global shortage of surgical masks, the Gill Mask is designed for additional protection while reducing mask wastage. Featuring a detachable filter cartridge, the Gill Mask requires just one-sixth of the absorbent material used in a standard surgical mask.

The medical-grade silicone face-piece fits comfortably with space between the nose and mouth, and can also be washed in boiling water to remove contaminants or in the dishwasher. The mask is available for purchase on its website.

Find out more at Gill Mask.