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Razer makes an unexpected move at CES 2021 with Project Hazel

Quietly starting at the beginning of the pandemic last year, the tech gaming company transformed some manufacturing facilities to create wearable and innovative protection against COVID-19.


Image: Razer

Razer’s first concept Project Brooklyn delivered something expected at CES 2021, but with its second, Project Hazel, Razer tackled an entirely new cottage industry as it conceived, developed, and created a tech-infused modern mask for safety against the continually looming pandemic.

Project Hazel

Stepping out of the gamer world, Razer “has really been proactive in the fight against COVID-19 very early on, including converting some of our manufacturing facilities to be able to produce certified medical masks,” said Mike Scharnikow, senior marketing manager, growth peripherals at Razer.

“We’ve developed expertise in this area, we’ve acquired certification to manufacture surgical-grade masks, and for these Razer health initiative efforts, we’re incredibly proud to have donated more than one million surgical face masks worldwide directly to the healthcare front lines,” Scharnikow added.

 Razer is “very proud of our efforts in this space. And it’s not just us. Our community has stepped up in a big way as well through our Razer for Life program, donating more than 100,000 masks to healthcare professionals.” The project continues today.  

Razer is calling Project Hazel “the world’s smartest mask,” because it’s multiuse with an increased emphasis on hygiene, and addresses the concerns for environmental ramifications regarding disposable masks. “We really honed in on five key pillars,” he said. “There’s safety, social, sustainability, comfort, and personalization.”

Project Hazel is built around two signature smart pods on each side of the mask, which are for filtration via changeable filters and a rechargeable active ventilation system, while it delivers medical-grade N95 respirator protection that filters out at least 95% of airborne particles and offers a high fluid resistance. The ventilation system regulates the airflow to “deliver optimal breathability along with high-level protection.”

SEE: CES 2021: All of the business tech news you need to know  (TechRepublic)

Razer was also concerned with wearers being able to maintain a social connection while wearing a mask. “Project Hazel features a clear, transparent plastic design that allows your mouth and your face to be seen while you’re wearing the mask. This lets others see you smiling, see you laughing, see you frowning, see all of your facial expressions, really, to keep that social connection,” Scharnikow said. Adding that there are benefits “for those who are hard of hearing who can see your lips and read your lips while you’re talking.”

Project Hazel also features a low light mode with a subtle LED inside the mask, so during nighttime or dark situations, the wearer’s mouth can still be visible. 

The mask will also feature new Razer voice-amp technology, which addresses the common issue of muffled speech and limits to communication. “Housed within the smart pod system is a microphone and speaker array that will detect your voice while you’re talking with the mask on and then use audio algorithms to reflect your voice out naturally to the world,” he explained. “This voice algorithm can be trained via the included app, and it will make you sound exactly like you would without the mask.”

Single-use masks create an environmental concern and washable masks “have a limited life and need to be thrown away eventually” Scharnikow said, which is why Razer focused on sustainability.

The Project Hazel mask is built from recycled plastic, eco-friendly materials and features cleanable, replaceable filters and a rechargeable ventilation system, “to ensure that this is a mask you can use on a daily basis day in and day out for a long time without it losing any effectiveness,” he said. 

Project Hazel also includes a case which is also a charger and a UV sterilizing station.

Lastly, wearers often complain masks are uncomfortable. “Maybe they’re too tight, they’re too loose, you have to adjust them all the time, they’re pinching, and we really wanted to ensure that Project Hazel was something that was comfortable to wear and to breathe in over long periods of time,” Scharnikow said.

The mask has an air-tight soft silicone seal to ensure protection and minimize discomfort. “Because we’re using a soft material, it’s not pinching, it’s not pulling, it’s not pushing on your face, but it feels good and natural to wear,” and is available in different sizes with adjustable ear loops. “We don’t want this to get too loose, too tight. We want to make sure that everybody wearing it has the right fit on their face.”

Lastly, Razer wanted to use its expertise in Chroma lighting, so the LED systems and colors on the smart pods indicate the functionality of the mask. “If the batteries need to be charged or if it’s charging or if the filtration system needs to be cleaned or replaced.” Project Hazel will be available in both black and white.

Working prototypes of the mask are available to view through the RazerStore livestream.

Also see

This post was written by and was first posted to TechRepublic

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