A Japanese startup, Donut Robotics, has developed a face mask that can transcribe speech into text messages, make phone calls and even amplify the wearer’s voice.
The “smart mask,” which fits over standard face masks, can also translate from Japanese into eight different languages.
“We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society,” said Taisuke Ono, Donut Robotics CEO.
Donut’s first 5,000 “c-masks” will be shipped to buyers in Japan in September, but the company is looking ahead to selling in China, the U.S. and Europe as well. There has been strong interest for the product, Ono said.
The masks will retail for about $40 each. The company is also looking at subscriber services offered via a mask-connected app that users will download as an additional source of revenue.
Engineers at Donut Robotics came up with the idea for the mask while searching for a product that would help them weather the economic downturn that’s come about because of the Coronavirus. The company had just landed a contract to build robot guides and translators for Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. That work faces uncertainty however, due to the severe downturn in air travel.