Engineers over at Dyson are plotting the brand’s foray into audio technology with a pair of noise-canceling headphones that double as a personal pollution filter. The Dyson Zone, which was finally unveiled yesterday after a staggering 500 prototypes, is straight out of a sci-fi film. Besides offering state-of-the-art technology across programmable ANC settings—Isolation, Conversation and Transparency—the headset is also equipped with a detachable visor that blows filtered air around the wearer’s nose and mouth. “Unlike face masks,” chief engineer Jake Dyson says, “it delivers a plume of fresh air without touching your face, using high-performance filters and two miniaturized air pumps.”
We wouldn’t fault you for thinking the Dyson Zone was a pandemic-ready innovation. The bizarre headset has actually been in development for the past six years and—the company stresses—is not meant to be a tech-based alternative for face or surgical masks, instead leveraging Dyson’s technology to function as a personal shield to noise and air pollution. Still, the headset verges on cyborg-chic, and tech writers predictably reacted with amusement and curiosity at its appearance.
The Dyson Zone is a product that captures the zeitgeist of the pandemic years. As the eventual twilight of the face mask nears, we revisit five of the most innovative, artistic, and outrageous ideas to emerge in the age of masks.