The annual deluge of CES gadgets and gadgets usually tries to predict what consumer-grade technology will look like in the living rooms of the near future. But after a year like 2020, bendable TVs and surround sound systems seem less interesting than a more pressing category: technology to help people get outside during an ongoing pandemic.
That’s why we’re captivated by the Razer Project Hazel, arguably the most advanced face mask concept we’ve seen since COVID-19 began to ravage the world. This N95 mask concept was unveiled Tuesday as part of Razer’s CES line of gamer-focused products, and it appeared as a surprise entry alongside the company’s usual fare of laptops and gaming peripherals.
16.8 million colors on your face? Of course why not
Razer’s sales pitch claims this shouldn’t come as a surprise at all, as the company has repurposed at least one of its production lines to produce more than a million surgical-grade disposable face masks by 2020. take it one step further and make what looks like a fancypants, LED-smothered gaming mouse…for your face. Project Hazel immediately amplifies the company’s affinity for customizable light grids, thanks to two light rings — supporting 16.8 million colors, because why not — that circle the mask’s ventilation slots. We wouldn’t be shocked if Razer eventually lets gamers sync these light displays to nearby mice and keyboards.
However, having laughed at that aesthetic overkill, we generally nodded in agreement with Project Hazel’s concept. The system, as advertised, would include an active ventilation system, the slots of which fit into a charging case that doubles as an ultraviolet disinfectant. A silicone protector would seal the cheeks and nose of users, while a voice modulation system and transparent plastic face would go the extra mile to preserve speech volume and visible mouths – things you definitely won’t find in a standard cloth mask. Razer goes even further in guaranteeing your visible face by offering inward-facing lighting as an option.
For now, Razer can hide behind the ‘concept’ label. Without a live demo showing exactly how it works — or any semblance of release date, price, or battery life on a single charge — Razer’s concept could indeed be unachievable vaporware, or it could be prohibitively expensive at launch. Plus, there’s the matter of fan-driven noise and battery-powered heat, both of which need to be distributed neatly to ensure Project Hazel’s sales pitch ensures that the mask will be left comfortable in public for long periods of time.
As an open-eye mask, Project Hazel is certainly less dramatic in construction than that of the Narwall mask, an $85 option currently on sale without active ventilation systems (or clear faceplate) and instead relies on a SCUBA-esque, all -overdesign. (From a cursory glance it looks like a great cosplay option for snorkels fans.) And as of press time, the best mask option we’ve found with clear mouth windows, as part of our comprehensive mask buying guide, is trickier to recommend thanks to CDC guidelines. Even if Razer’s prototype never emerges as a full-fledged product, we can’t imagine the rest of the international tech sector moving forward with more ideas for safely navigating the outside world — long before COVID-19 vaccination becomes a social given. . Should Razer send us updates about Project Hazel becoming a retail product, we’ll keep you posted.
List image by Razer