Razer Brings Gaming Tech to COVID Masks

Don’t sound like Darth Vader

Key Takeaways

  • Razer is bringing its gaming technology to masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Project Hazel uses a built-in microphone and amplifier to make users sound the way they would without wearing a mask.
  • Interior lights activate automatically in the dark, and RGB lighting lets users customize the look.
Razer's Project Hazel smart mask

Razer is using its gaming technology to make a mask that it claims will better defend against contamination during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Project Hazel smart mask concept, announced at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, uses detachable and rechargeable active ventilators, and pods that regulate airflow for better breathability. It’s one of a growing number of smart masks unveiled at this year’s show as manufacturers try to find tech solutions to the pandemic. Razer’s cover uses a built-in microphone and amplifier to make users sound the same as they would without wearing a mask.

"Razer acknowledges the uncertainty in the road ahead, and so it was our duty to help protect our community members and prepare them from invisible threats," Min-Liang Tan, co-founder and CEO of Razer, said in a virtual news briefing. "The Project Hazel smart mask concept is intended to be functional, yet comfortable and useful for interacting with the world while maintaining a sociable aesthetic."

Not Your Father’s Mask

The Project Hazel mask certainly doesn’t look like the disposable or cloth masks that have become common in the last year. It’s transparent, which the company says makes it easier for users to read each other's facial expressions, and interior lights that activate automatically in the dark let wearers express themselves while on a dark street or gaming past midnight.

Perhaps the feature most in keeping with Razer’s gamer aesthetic is the fact that users can activate two customizable Razer RGB lighting zones, offering 16.8 million colors and a suite of dynamic lighting effects. The lights mean the masks could turn out to be perfect for attending Burning Man-type festivals during the pandemic.

The mask’s smarts aren’t all about looks, though, Razer claims. It has N95 medical-grade respirator protection, using detachable and rechargeable active ventilators, and "Smart Pods" that regulate airflow for better breathability. The company claims that the high bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) Smart Pods filter at least 95% of airborne particles and have a high fluid resistance.

The replaceable and rechargeable disc-type ventilators are sanitized by placing them inside their dual-purpose wireless charging box, with a disinfecting UV-light interior. Lighting indicators show charge levels, and the company claims the battery will last for a full day of use. Razer says the masks are less likely to end up in landfills because they’re tough and scratch-resistant.

Masks, Masks, Everywhere

Razer isn’t alone in jumping onto the high-tech mask bandwagon. The MaskFone has a built-in microphone to take calls with your mask on. 

"Everybody uses headphones these days for various reasons ranging from calls to music to movies," according to the company’s website. "However, some of these actions, such as speaking on a call or removing your headphones, might require the face mask to come off. MaskFone reduces or eliminates altogether the need to remove or constantly adjust your face mask to speak on your mobile phone or while listening to music."

Man in car wearing the Maskfone high-tech mask with earbuds

There’s also the AirPop Active+, which comes with a sensor to monitor your breathing and tell you when you need to replace your filter. When used in Active Mode during exercise, the AirPop Active+ tracks your breaths per minute and claims to tell you the quality of those breaths. This data can then be shared with Apple HealthKit, which the company says will give you insight into your respiratory health.

While Razer hasn’t announced a release date for its Project Hazel mask, I can’t wait to get my hands on one. Voice enhancement sounds like a valuable feature, and I love the idea of being able to customize the look with different color lights. That said, I’m still waiting to see which manufacturer finally figures out how to keep my eyeglasses from fogging up while wearing a mask. They’ll get all my money.

Want more? See all our coverage of CES 2021 right here.

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