LG has officially announced a portable air purifier that you wear on your face like a mask. The PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier uses a pair of replaceable filters similar to what you’d find in LG’s range of air purifiers for the home, pairing them with battery-powered fans to help you breathe. LG says the device has sensors to detect when you’re breathing in or out, and adjusts the fans’ speeds accordingly.
Today’s announcement ahead of IFA 2020 doesn’t explicitly mention the COVID-19 pandemic, but it heavily implies that the mask was developed in response to it. The company says the wearable air purifier is designed to replace the “inconsistent” homemade masks worn by some people, as well as the disposable masks that it says have been in short supply.
Back in July, when LG first announced the mask and said it would be donating 2,000 of the devices to a university hospital in Seoul, one executive from the company said they hoped it would help medical staff “amid the protracting COVID-19 pandemic,” The Korea Herald reported. They hoped it would make it easier for medical staff to wear a mask for hours at a time.
It’s important to note, however, that LG’s press release doesn’t make any claims about the mask slowing the spread of the coronavirus, including whether it filters air as you exhale as well as inhale. LG declined to comment to The Verge when we asked about this directly, and said that it was waiting until certification and testing is complete to give full details. It’s an important distinction, since masks are as much about preventing the wearer from infecting those around them as they are about helping to stop the wearer from being infected.
The USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends against the use of masks with exhalation valves or vents to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, since these don’t filter “expelled respiratory droplets” that could allow wearers to infect those nearby.
Since LG’s new mask uses motorized fans, it needs to be powered in order to work. LG says the PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier has a 820mAh battery that provides up to eight hours of use in its low-power mode, dropping to just two hours in high-power mode.
LG’s announcement doesn’t say exactly when the mask will release or how much it will cost, but notes that it will be available in the fourth quarter of this year in “select markets.”