Could Transparent Face Masks Bring Back Our Smiles?
Sana Kazilbash posted on July 07, 2020 |
CIVILITY masks aim to enhance communication during the pandemic.

The CIVILITY mask. (Image courtesy of Indiegogo.)
The CIVILITY mask. (Image courtesy of Indiegogo.)

COVID-19 is expected to be around for a while. Face masks associated with the pandemic are impacting our interactions, with lost smiles exacerbating our sense of isolation during a time of unprecedented social distancing. People with hearing impairment are facing communication challenges, with voices muffled by masks and lip-based visual cues absent. While some surgical masks have been crudely modified with see-through mouth screens in an attempt to reinstill human connection, there is clearly a need for a better solution.

France-based company CIVILITY is aiming to break down the communication barriers through the innovation of a transparent mask that keeps lower face features visible to others.

(Image courtesy of Indiegogo.)
(Image courtesy of Indiegogo.)

The CIVILITY mask is engineered to be ergonomic, filtered and airtight—offering high levels of security that will be tested by the French Government Defence agency (DGA). The design involves a transparent glass window with adjustable straps to ensure a tight fit for any face type. A soft, comfortable thermo-plastic elastomer (TPE) seal safeguards the wearer from breathing in/out unfiltered air—and this seal is not disrupted even when the wearer is talking. The mask complies with the EN1827 standard, protecting both the wearer and other people.

Replaceable filters reside on the sides of the mask, with each filter lasting 12 hours. These high-performance filters are FFP2-certified by the European Union (i.e., they ensure a minimum of 94 percent filtration and a maximum of 8 percent air leakage) and are governed by the EN 14683/ASTM F2100-19 standard, filtering 98 percent of 0.3-micron particles. This bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) means that apart from protection against COVID-19, CIVILITY masks can filter out particles that make up pollution or cause allergies.

The CIVILITY mask incorporates high-performance filters with optimal airtightness. (GIF courtesy of Indiegogo.)
The CIVILITY mask incorporates high-performance filters with optimal airtightness. (GIF courtesy of Indiegogo.)

Each mask weighs less than 100g and offers comfort even during a long wearing period. Breathability—a measure of the pressure differential across a mask—is at less than 40Pa/cm2 for CIVILITY masks, comparing well with World Health Organization (WHO) standards where breathability is required to be between 29.4-49Pa/cm2 for surgical masks. The wearer is not required to yell through the glass mask while communicating, thanks to CIVILITY’s collaboration with acoustic engineers who have ensured that the space around the mouth supports sound quality and facilitates breathing. Furthermore, the mask is designed not to fog up—even when worn during exercise.

Apart from coming in different colors and kids’ sizes, certain models of CIVILITY masks include upgrades such as electric mini-fans installed within the filter caps. These fans serve to further enhance breathability, where one fan increases the volume of air inside the mask while the other improves air extraction outside the mask. The fans provide eight hours of autonomy and can be recharged through an AC outlet.

Air Premium masks have silent electric mini-fans within their filter caps. (Image courtesy of Indiegogo.)
Air Premium masks have silent electric mini-fans within their filter caps. (Image courtesy of Indiegogo.)

CIVILITY masks are designed for long-term use and can be sanitized easily using 70 percent alcohol solutions, making them an eco-friendly option against their disposable and washable counterparts. There’s a catch, though—prices currently range from USD$40 (EUR€35) for the basic model, to a whopping USD$197 (EUR€175) for the Air Premium model. Filter costs also need to be taken into consideration, as CIVILITY masks are not compatible with other filters (e.g., standard 3M bayonet mask filters). Each month’s supply of filters will set you back USD$17 (EUR€15)—and that’s not even taking taxes and shipping costs into account.

CIVILITY engineers are now working on a V2 mask that incorporates a built-in microphone for pilots, and a V3 mask that is further tailored toward sportspeople. After refining the functional prototype, developers are aiming for production to begin this month, with shipments anticipated to go out by September 2020. And so, although it will be some time before the pandemic is over, effective human interaction may not necessarily have to wait that long.

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