Japanese startup Donut Robotics has created the c-mask, a Bluetooth-connected face covering to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. According to the startup's official website, the smart mask can translate Japanese into eight languages and can be preordered for $37 (3,980 yen). There is also a monthly fee for additional translation services, which sounds amazing for globetrotters on paper, but impractical in practice, because COVID-19, which the mask is intended to help protect against, means travel is hugely curtailed.
COVID-19-induced wear is essential but makes doing some things difficult, like taking phone calls. Brands are trying to get on the wave and create chic and safe mask alternatives all over the place for people who are understandably sick of the more sterile-looking standard coverings. But none of those can connect to your phone.
How the c-mask works — With the help of Bluetooth, the c-mask keeps you connected to the internet. It's like a smartphone for your face. You can use it to dictate text messages, make phone calls, or increase and decrease the volume of your voice (translated or not) coming out of your phone. This last bit is particularly helpful considering how often face masks tend to muffle the user's voice.
The startup's CEO, Taisuke Ono, told Reuters, "We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society."
The five C's — According to Donut Robotics, the c-mask's key selling points — and the inspiration for its name — are what it calls the "five Cs": Clear voice; connect with smartphone; cool design; clean material; combat coronavirus.
The first 5,000 c-masks will be distributed in Japan in September. After that, orders will start reaching consumers in Europe, the United States, and China.
In a two-for-one move, Ono told Reuters that through mass sales, he hopes to mainstream the use of the Donut Robotics c-mask app and subscriber services. It's not an unrealistic dream either. The startup earned its first target of 7 million yen (~$65,000) within minutes and has so far collected 28 million yen (~$260,000) in total. With that kind of interest from the market, c-mask could very well become the new normal. We'd like it in black, though, please.