Experts at Hong Kong Lingnan University have created a new transparent face mask which they say enables barrier-free communication. While it's a breakthrough for the hearing impaired who may need to read lips, the designers say it can benefit society as a whole during the time of COVID-19.
The 3D-printed mask is not the first to include a transparent area, but previous ones didn't allow as much of the face to be seen.
"I think this new fully-transparent mask lets you see the wearer's whole face, which is better compared with a mask which only has a transparent window, as it only shows a small area of the face," said Christy Ting, 24, who has been hearing impaired since she was a child.
"You can see from the side, from the front, and from other angles as well," said Dr. Albert Ko, director of the entrepreneurship initiative at the university.
Ko said the design of the mask was inspired by the geometry of stealth fighter jets combined with the use of polygon design and flat surfaces to minimize reflections. The mask's inner layer is designed with anti-fog technology.
"It's not only the transparency of the mask, it's also the amount of light that is allowed entering onto the face of the wearer, which makes lip-reading a lot easier," Ko said.
It also has a low-cost, changeable HEPA that its makers say needs to be replaced every two weeks and Ko said his team is working on a second generation of filter that his highly protective against COVID-19.
The designers argue that in addition to the hearing-impaired, everyone should be able to use it in order to build a more inclusive society.
Ko and his team have commissioned a production line in Hong Kong with the target of a first batch of 10,000 transparent filtration masks being available by November at the price of 280 Hong Kong dollars -- about $36 U.S. -- each. There is no indication when it might be available in the U.S.