Dyson’s futuristic headphones double as an air purifier for your face

Six years ago, mask mandates and a global pandemic were beyond the public’s imagination. And yet Dyson started developing a new product. It was a portable air purifier, requiring an oxygen mask and backpack. About 500 prototypes later, the company announces the Dyson Zone. It will be released this fall for an undisclosed price.

It’s still a portable air purifier, but the backpack is gone. Now the machine is hidden in a sturdy pair of headphones, which direct filtered air to a visor that sits over your nose and mouth. Packed with noise-cancelling technology, the device allows you to listen to music or even take calls while breathing clean air; it filters 99% of particles down to 0.1 microns, meaning the Zone can filter out dust and bacteria. Dyson’s own testing has found it to be even “quite effective” at removing viruses like the coronavirus, according to Tom Bennett, head of product development with a focus on wearables.

[Image: Dyson]”But we are very careful that we have to be sensitive to this,” clarifies Bennett. “We did not design this product to protect against the coronavirus.”

The problem of air pollution has been a concern for founder James Dyson for decades. In 1998, just when we learned that Chinese cities were living under a constant fog, but before wildfires were a seasonal suppressant in California, Dyson released a cyclone filter that could be stuck to diesel exhausts to trap 95% of particulates from internal combustion engines. But like a vacuum, it had to be cleaned and emptied regularly, so it never courted the delivery and transportation industry. After that, Dyson spent $700 million developing its own electric car. But the car was prohibitively expensive to produce, especially since it couldn’t interest any major automaker.

So 25 years after creating its exhaust cyclone, Dyson is once again challenging urban pollution. But this time, instead of avoiding pollution at the source, the company has developed a way to live with it. That’s the inevitable, dystopian truth behind the Zone: it’s an absurdist solution to absurdist times – and yet it’s also an ingeniously constructed Rube Goldberg device for your face, built to protect you from a world becoming too toxic to live without. inhabiting consequences.

[Photo: Dyson]

How do you squeeze an air filter into headphones?

Headphones were never the primary focus for Dyson, as the company looked at just about every way you could wear an air filter on your body.

“We started exploring all options. † † shoulder mounted, neck mounted, on top of the head, but without the headphones. Initially, we like to go broad to make sure we arrive at the right concept,” says Bennett. “Headphones, we chose, because it’s such a natural, familiar way to wear a device . . . too [with] the weight distribution and the center of gravity make the product really stable on your head.’”

The Dyson team likens headphones to a horse saddle, which can distribute weight over a larger area. And that’s important, because these headphones aren’t usually hollow like many on the market, but they are packed with big batteries and mechanics.

[Photo: Dyson]That mechanics starts with the ear cups, each of which contains a motor and a filter that looks like straight out of a Dyson vacuum (the filter can last about a year with daily use). The filter is designed like an N95 mask as it uses static electricity to attract small particles to it to improve filtration efficiency. Meanwhile, an additional carbon filter captures gases such as CO2 and ozone.

Once filtered, air shoots out of the earcups through the visor, a rubbery mask that sits over your mouth and nose. During our conversation, Bennett holds this visor in front of his camera, bending and twisting in his hands. You can wear the headphones all by yourself to listen to music, without air filtering. But the visor attaches to the earcups with a magnet, so you can start filtering in under a second.

[Photo: Dyson]The ear cups adapt to the shape and size of your head and you can bend the visor to fit your face. It is striking, however, that the visor does not press flat against your cheeks like an N95 mask. It floats for comfort.

As the air pumps to your nose, a mesh cover on the visor softens the flow so the experience feels less like breathing from a hair dryer than from your own personal air pocket. “That’s the smart thing,” Bennett says. “Without [mesh] you don’t create that bubble.” The personal bubble is so resilient that Dyson has proven it works even in crosswinds.

All of these motors and air ducts create sound, so another reason Dyson engineers liked the idea of ​​building headphones was that they could use active noise canceling to dampen any sounds that couldn’t be mechanically eliminated. For this task, the headphones actually have five processors. They also have a pair of microphones for taking voice calls; they analyze your speech to cut out background noise as you speak, so you can take calls even while the air filter is active.

As for the batteries, they live in the headband as two of the padded “pods” you see in the design. They provide an unspecified amount of runtime for the Zone. Comparable headphones of this size can easily last 24 hours, but a Dyson Animal handheld vacuum can last a maximum of about 40 minutes. Needless to say, you can expect the Zone to fall somewhere between these two extremes.

[Photo: Dyson]

What should a wearable look like?

One point Bennett made clear during our call is that user comfort was paramount, and the company sees that basic comfort as the Zone’s major advantage over disposable masks. “We treat wearables, like the Dyson Zone, the same way we do any other product we make,” says Bennett. “It’s always function first.”

But he also admits that every wearable becomes part of our personal expression. Rather than trying to create a new aesthetic for the Zone, Dyson designed his first wearable with the familiar tropes of his own design language: as something unabashedly machine-like, with bright colors drawing attention to the mechanical innovations. Anodized aluminum ear cups have the kind of vents you might see on an Apple desktop computer. Let’s not mince words: Dyson has supposedly designed a Dyson vacuum cleaner that goes on your head.

“It’s daring. It’s unashamedly daring. We made that a point with the metallic finish,” says Bennett. You’re going to make a statement anyway, so make a bold statement. The statement you make is: ‘I enjoy my city and protect myself from the pollution around me.’”

That’s a statement not everyone will want to make. I find myself torn between who might be wearing this Dyson helmet, and knowing that if the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that a large portion of the population will wear just about anything to stay safe . But will the Zone be popular or parodied? I have no idea.

“To a certain extent neither do we,” admits Bennett. “But our goal, and what we’ve done, is find the problem, develop the solution, and then explain it. I think people will understand.”


This post Dyson’s futuristic headphones double as an air purifier for your face was original published at “https://www.fastcompany.com/90736024/dysons-futuristic-new-headphones-double-as-an-air-purifier-for-your-face?partner=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=rss+fastcompany&utm_content=rss”

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