After hatching the idea while traveling on an airplane amid the pandemic, Will.i.am is introducing a clever tech-driven face mask, a joint venture with manufacturer Honeywell. Xupermask will be available April 8 for $299, outfitted with three dual-speed fans and a Honeywell high-efficiency particulate-arresting (HEPA) air filtration system. It also includes noise-canceling audio and microphone capabilities as well as Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity and LED day glow lights.
To assist with the design, Will.i.am enlisted Jose Fernandez, who through his Ironhead Studio, a costume and creature design firm, has created costumes for films including The Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men United and The Avengers. “Jose and Ironhead made the first prototype for this mask,” he says.
Will.i.am traces the idea to March 2020, when he was “in London and preparing to fly back home.” He thought, “ ‘Let’s make a mask for the traveler,’ because the masks that we have were never intended for daily use … not for people to interface with tech, headphones and phones. People take off their mask and the earbuds fall out.” He also wanted to give the mask a robust seal; a loose fit is “one of the reasons why your glasses get fogged up.”
Will.i.am tells The Hollywood Reporter that he also sees this launch as a notable example for Black tech innovators. “I would like to add how blessed and thrilled I am with this collaboration with Honeywell. There’s not that many Black entrepreneurs in tech. The work that I do in the inner city, teaching kids computer science and robotics and engineering, this is confirmation that — though there are not that many people that look like them in the tech field — good ideas are needed. So this partnership means a lot, not only to me, but to the 1,200 kids that I support in the hood that I come from.”
Created in two color schemes — white/gray/orange and black/black/orange — the Xupermask comes in two sizes and is accompanied by a carrying case, three-month supply of HEPA filters, ear tips and USB-C charging cable.