CES 2021 is virtual this year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps one of the biggest changes to daily life as COVID-19 continues to spread has been wearing a mask. Today at the trade show, Razer announced a concept mask called Project Hazel, that, if turned into a real product, could make mask-wearing far more comfortable and functional. As this is a concept, there is no price or release date attached.
Project Hazel appears part gas mask, part future Power Ranger helmet and yes, part N95. Razer's vision is for an N95 medical grade respirator with "detachable and rechargeable active ventilators and Smart Pods that regulate airflow for optimal breathability." In theory, these smart pods can filter 95% of airborne particles. The mask also releases CO2 that you breathe out to prevent it from building up in the mask, while allowing cool air in.
The mask also has a built-in microphone and amplifier using "VoiceAmp" technology to make voices clearer, as masks tend to make it harder to hear people. Also on the accessibility front, Hazel has a clear design for the hard of hearing to read lips. There are also interior lights that turn on automatically when it's dark, so your face can be seen at all times.
Perhaps least surprisingly, the concept mask would work with Razer Chroma RGB lighting around the smart pods. The concept is being shown in both black and white options, and is made of recyclable plastic. Razer claims it's both waterproof and scratch-resistant. The silicon-lined mask has adjustable ear loops, which the company claims can support custom sizes.
This mask has electronics, so you need to charge it. Razer is also showing off a recharging box, which wirelessly tops off the mask. It also doubles as a disinfection station using UV lights on the inside.
There are some questions we have about the concept, including if the airflow through the mask could provide any danger (we'd love to know more about the filtration system). Frankly, thinking of a gaming-styled mask could seem gauche at first, but there does feel like there has been thought here about how to make masks better for those who are hard of hearing.
Unlike the other concept Razer is showing at CES, the gaming chair Project Brooklyn, Razer has prototypes of Hazel that it showed off on a live stream from the Las Vegas Razer store.
Back in March, Razer was among the first hardware companies to convert factories to produce medical grade masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The company says it has donated 1 million masks globally to date.
Razer's CES prototypes don't typically come to life exactly as we see them, if they come to life at all. But a mask is a different type of concept from the gaming PCs and accessories we usually see from Razer, so we'll have to see if the company actually produces these at some point in the future.
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Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon @FreedmanAE.mastodon.social.
LOL if I see you wearing that I will jack you like a CyperPunk 2077 NPC.Reply
If they just did away with the RGB stuff, it would be a decent, workable, and mostly-reusable mask. I find that the light-up mouth feature unnecessary, but it does serve a purpose. If it can be disabled via switch, that would be better, IMO. The only real "gotcha!" cost is filter replacements, assuming they're intended as single-use despite having a UV sterilizer box.Reply
The only other design issue is the ear loops; I would have much rather have the option for around the head, like paint and particle respirators. Having all that held by your ears for hours on end can make them pretty sore. Beyond that, this would be pretty useful for receptionists, clerical work, and some light clinical work, thanks to the voice amplifier and reduced (disposable) mask usage. It's kind of inconvenient yelling at someone over the phone or over the counter because I'm talking through a thick, multi-layered mask.
What they could do is make certain versions of the mask, kinda like what they did with the Nari and Kraken headsets, essential would be only the clear mask with VoiceAmp and internal lighting, the basic version is just the essential with RGB, and the ultimate would have an option to go with a solid black/white base instead of clear, with clear always being an option, with extra lighting around the seams, with maybe with voicemod support or a customizable screen, since it is plastic and off your face.Reply
The filters shouldn't cost that much to produce, and its going to probably be a sheet of 40 or so just cut out of the fabric that are meant to be cut out and screwed into the filter housing, like on a kazoo or inflatable spa.
I do agree with you on the straps, but they should be an option or able to be swapped out for situations like the around the back strap to be inconvenient or get tangled in their hair.