Commentary

Cooling haze mask becomes a hot topic

The Air+ Smart Mask has an air valve and a detachable fan that draws exhaled air out, effectively creating a cooling exhaust system.
The Air+ Smart Mask has an air valve and a detachable fan that draws exhaled air out, effectively creating a cooling exhaust system.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Last week, I tested out the Air+ Smart Mask, created by local company Innosparks.

I wore it out on the streets; I even kept it on inside the office.

Well, I had to put the review set through its paces to check out the battery life of the mini-fan unit, and the comfort of the mask over long periods of time.

But what surprised me most was not the workings of the mask itself, but how much attention it drew. It became more than just a mere gadget; it became an object of envy, the awkward elephant in the room and a conversation starter.

The Air+ Smart Mask has been getting a lot of attention due to the recent bout of haze.

While other masks create a mini-sauna over the nose and mouth with all the trapped heat and moisture, the Air+ has an air valve and a detachable fan that draws exhaled air out, effectively creating a cooling exhaust system.

But what surprised me most was not the workings of the mask itself, but how much attention it drew. It became more than just a mere gadget; it became an object of envy, the awkward elephant in the room, and a conversation starter.

Because of this design, most Air+ Smart Mask sets have been eagerly snapped up, and it is difficult to find a set on the shelves these days.

When Innosparks sent over a review unit last Tuesday, the curiosity over it began.

After I posted a picture of myself wearing it on Facebook, I got messages asking me where to buy it. My exercise instructor wanted one. "Where did you buy that Air+ Mask? And how much?" she asked me over WhatsApp. "If you have extra, can I purchase from you?"

"I'm a mask fan," she confided.

The Air+ Smart Mask was in such great demand that when I wore it out, I noticed the green-eyed stares of other mask-clad haze warriors.

In the office, when my colleagues saw the unique detachable unit, they asked me how they could get a set. And because I wore it around the clean-aired confines of the office, I drew scrutiny as well.

After I got out of the bathroom, I bumped into a colleague who did not know I was donning the mask to review it. "I guess it's pretty hazy, eh?" she ventured politely.

The conversation went on for a while before I explained to her why I was wearing the mask. "Ahh, right," she exclaimed. "For a minute, I thought you were just really paranoid."

The mask became a talking point among my friends too. Over lunch, a friend compared me to Darth Vader because of the mask's soft hiss whenever I breathed. Another put her hand below the fan unit to feel the gentle outflow of air, and asked me how the unit worked.

It is not often that a gadget piques the interest of everyone who comes across it, but during this hazy period, the Air+ Smart Mask did just that. The mask may have been created to keep people cool, but I found that among my friends and colleagues, it was a hot topic.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'Cooling haze mask becomes a hot topic'. Print Edition | Subscribe