Dyson’s plans for an air purifier that could double as a pair of headphones have been published by the UK patent office, at a time when face masks have become must-have accessories to fight the spread of a deadly virus across Asia.
The product, developed by Dyson Ltd engineers, houses a filter within the headphones, with a form of nozzle providing filtered air to the user. The patent notes that “air pollution is an increasing problem and a variety of air pollutants have known or suspected harmful effects on human health.”
Dyson’s plans for a “wearable air purifier” were first reported by Bloomberg in 2018. A Dyson spokesman did not respond to an immediate request for comment. The company has previously said that it “never comments on technology we may or may not be developing.”
Here’s how Dyson says it’ll work: Both earcups contain a motor that’s connected to a fan-like propeller measuring 35-40mm. Each spin at about 12,000 rpm to draw about 1.4 liters of air per second into the headphones through a filter that particles — typically dust and bacteria, although not specified in the patent — cannot penetrate. The filtered air then journeys down each side of the mouthpiece, meeting in the middle, where a perforated air vent jets about 2.4 liters per second of clean oxygen toward the wearer’s mouth. However, there is no reference to a battery, or any illustration where one might fit.
Best known for its vacuum cleaners and hand dryers, Dyson has been expanding its popular line of floor-standing air purifiers. Any bid to grow in the headphone market would mark a leap for Dyson, pitting it against Apple Inc’s AirPods and Beats and high-end gadgets from the likes of Bose and Sennheiser.
However, the potential to market a wearable purifier to consumers in smog-filled Chinese cities could be a major driver for the project. Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared pollution one of the government’s three most pressing problems. Floor-standing air purifiers are big business in Asia—there are even a few versions available that can be worn around the neck, with a limited number listed on Amazon.com.
Pharmacies across Asia are also currently sold out of masks aimed at preventing viral infection of the new coronavirus, prompting authorities to say more will arrive next week. Taiwan banned the export of masks for the next month to ensure sufficient domestic supply. In Macau, authorities said sales would be restricted to a maximum of 10 face masks to residents or authorized guest workers who can present a valid ID card.
Dyson’s new headphones may never come to market. The company files a large number of patents for products that often don’t make it into production. In 2009, it filed for a hydraulic food juicer that has yet to emerge as a final product, and so far this year patents have been published for an electric toothbrush and car window parts.
Dyson last year ditched its 2-billion-pound ($2.6 billion) plan to build electric cars. The company had turned a former airfield into a vehicle-testing site, and begun plans to build a car factory in Singapore.
Asia has been instrumental to Dyson’s recent rapid growth: revenue increased 28 per cent to 4.4 billion pounds in 2018, with sales in Asia helping fuel much of the growth. Shanghai was the top-selling city for its purifiers in 2017.
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