‘Smart’ Face Mask Aims to Improve Communication in New Normal
A Japanese company has created a "smart" mask that aims to improve communication for people wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The use of face masks has become the new normal in parts of the world still struggling to reduce spread of the coronavirus. However, masks and other kinds of coverings can affect the quality of communication between wearers.
It can be more difficult to hear voices through the coverings. Many business and public spaces also have social distancing barriers in place, which also make it harder for people to be heard and understood.
The wearable electronic device is designed to help improve speech interactions in such conditions.
The Japanese startup company Donut Robotics calls its invention the "c-mask." The device is meant to fit over other kinds of face masks commonly worn by the public.
The c-mask is made of soft plastic material. It contains a built-in microphone and has holes in the front to let air in. When it is turned on, the mask uses Bluetooth technology to connect to a mobile device.
An app then helps users perform several actions, including turning speech into text, completing telephone calls and making the user's voice louder. The device can also translate a person's voice from Japanese into eight other languages.
The engineers who developed the smart mask had already built robots for use in Japanese airports to provide guidance and translation services to travelers.
But with the travel industry currently suffering big losses, the future of the robots became unclear. So, engineers sought to come up with a new product to fill a need.
Taisuke Ono is the head of Donut Robotics. He told the Reuters news agency, "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."
Ono told international broadcaster CNN that the company was able to raise money to develop the smart mask through a campaign on the Japanese crowdfunding service Fundinno.
He noted that the effort raised $265,000 in just the first 37 minutes. "It was very surprising, because it would usually take three or four months to get that kind of money," Ono said.
The company produced a working model of the mask within a month by using software developed for its other robot products. The mask design was similar to one created years ago by one of the company's engineers that mapped facial muscles to interpret speech.
Ono said the company plans to ship its first 5,000 c-masks to buyers in Japan starting in September. He is also looking to sell the devices in China, the United States and Europe and says he has received strong interest in the product.
Donut Robotics plans to sell the devices for about $40 per mask, in an effort to capture a mass market that did not exist until a few months ago.
"We hope that our device will be useful in a society where people naturally practice social distancing," the company states on its website.
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5.Donut Robotics plans to sell the devices for about $40 per mask, in an effort to capture a mass market that did not exist until a few months ago.
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6.Donut Robotics plans to sell the devices for about $40 per mask, in an effort to capture a mass market that did not exist until a few months ago.
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Mass burials are now under way in an effort to ward off an outbreak of cholera.
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放眼全球，一些仍在努力遏制新冠病毒传播的地区，戴口罩已经成为了一种新的常态 。然而，佩戴口罩等物品会影响人们的沟通质量 。
口罩会阻挡声音的传播 。许多商业和公共场所也实施了社交隔离防范措施，这使得人们更难听到或听懂对方说的话 。
日本初创公司Donut Robotics把这一发明称为“c-mask” 。这款设备可戴在日常佩戴的其它类型的口罩外面 。
这款智能口罩是由软塑料制成 。它包含一个内置麦克风，口罩正中心设有通气孔 。这款口罩启动后可以利用蓝牙技术与移动设备连接 。
然后通过一款应用程序帮助用户执行多种操作，包括将语音转换为文本、完成通话以及放大用户音量的功能 。该设备还可以将用户的声音从日语翻译为其它8种语言 。
但是随着目前旅游业遭受巨大损失，这款机器人的前景不太明朗 。所以工程师试图打造一款新产品来满足需求 。
小野泰介是Donut Robotics公司的负责人 。他对路透社表示：“我们为开发机器人倾注了多年的心血，并且已经利用该技术打造了一款产品，来适应被新冠病毒重塑的当今社会 。”
他指出，这个项目仅用了37分钟就筹集到26.5万美元 。小野泰介表示：“让人瞠目结舌，通常情况下，要筹集到这个金额需要三四个月时间 。”
该公司利用其为其它机器人产品开发的软件，在一个月内就打造出了这款口罩的工作模型 。这款口罩的设计类似于该公司一位工程师多年前开发出来的一种绘制面部肌肉转换为语音的设计 。
小野泰介表示，该公司计划在今年9月份开始向日本的买主发出首批5000只智能口罩 。他还希望把这款产品售往中国、美国和欧洲，并表示收到了他们对该产品的意向 。
Donut Robotics公司计划以每只口罩40美元的价格出售，以抢占数月前还不存在的这一大规模市场 。