This is a mask made out of a washable/reusable material with a removable lightweight speaker embedded into the mask, itself.
Target audience: People who talk to others! This mask is particularly helpful for people who have to do a large amount of public speaking, such as teachers and public officials. Also, this mask could be very helpful for people with speech impediments, so that they would not have to repeat themselves in a conversation.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, a wearable mask is a necessary tool in order for one’s health to remain stable. However, one inconvenience involving masks is the fact that someone’s voice becomes significantly quieter while wearing a mask. If someone were to be giving a speech with their mask on, rather than holding a microphone and having to speak louder, someone could simply wear a mask with a small, cheap, lightweight speaker embedded in it in order to amplify their voice. In order to create this mask, a small cut would be made on the side of a mask made out of a washable/reusable material, so that the amplifying device could be placed inside. Next, the amplifying device would be placed in the mask itself and would be attached to the inside of the mask using two slidable metal pieces, so that the device can be removed and put back in. Finally, the mask would be closed with a zipper, so that the device does not fall out of the mask. When the battery of the amplifier is depleted, the batteries can be recharged or replaced, and the mask itself can be washed when the speaker is removed, making this mask a reusable solution to this issue.
Another, more playful, aspect of this mask would be the ability to add different voice filters on to the speaker/amplifier itself, such as the ones used in a megaphone. Anyone who wore this mask would be able to imitate any fictional character, and even a real person, using the same technology used in megaphone voice changers.
Not only could this mask with a speaker embedded in it become a very useful technology in many different situations, but it could also be a very fun take on a health necessity.
Who will take these actions?
This technology can be created by anyone who has access to a cotton mask and means of online shopping in order to obtain the speaker. In order to market the mask, small groups of people would have to spread awareness, allowing people to purchase the mask. Additionally, if well-known companies or people were to invest money into the idea, awareness would instantly grow, and the mask would become much more accessible to people who seek to use it.
What are the projected costs?
Cotton masks are available at very cheap prices, the cheapest, good quality ones being well under $1.00 each. If the cotton masks were to be self-made the price would change. Also, the speakers that could be used for this mask are around $4.00 each, causing the ultimate cost per unit to be around $4.25. This price could change if other cheaper options are found.
The mask itself can be created in a very short amount of time, most likely around 3-4 hours if built by hand, and significantly shorter if created in a factory. Fabrication could be delayed based on how long each product takes to arrive due to the recent delays in shipping.
About the author(s)
Janice Tjan, Fiona Lin, Lizi Maziashvili, Joseph Morales, Aneesh Batra, and Susan Su are undergraduate researchers and high school students working at David Kong's Community Biotechnology Initiative of the MIT Media Lab.