The white plastic ‘c-mask’ fits over standard face masks and connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone and tablet application that can transcribe speech into text messages, make calls, or amplify the mask wearer’s voice
The covid-19 pandemic has brought numerous shifts in our daily lives as we know it. Many of us are either self-quarantining at our homes or avoiding going outside in fear of catching the virus. School teachings have gone online and in ways we never imagined. Gone are the days when we could freely move around and meet and greet people with any restrictions.
However, to avoid the spread of the virus, face masks have become mandatory as they can act as a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.
The global disposable face mask market size exceeded a value of $74.90 billion in Q1 of 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 53.0% from 2020 to 2027. The unprecedented spread of coronavirus worldwide, most notably in Europe and North America, is driving the demand for disposable face masks. Disposable face covers are extensively used in the healthcare sector.
Japanese startup Donut Robotics has developed an internet-connected ‘smart mask’ that can transmit messages and translate from Japanese into eight other languages. Named ‘C-FACE’ is the world’s first ‘smart mask that works with smartphones’ developed by applying robot technology and at the same time redefining the ‘mask’ that has been protecting human health for a long time.
The white plastic ‘c-mask’ fits over standard face masks and connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone and tablet application that can transcribe speech into text messages, make calls, or amplify the mask wearer’s voice.
Taisuke Ono, CEO of Donut Robotics tells us in detail how their ‘C-Face’ is the world’s first ‘smart mask that works with smartphones’.
Tell us in detail about your new covid-19 mask with Bluetooth technology?
We have been developing a smart mask called ‘C-FACE’. With the product, you can send your speech voice to smartphone of other people. In addition, the mask converts speech voice into text, translates in 8 languages, and make minutes of the meeting.
‘C-FACE’ is the world’s first “smart mask that works with smartphones” developed by applying robot technology. You have redefined the ‘mask’ that has been protecting human health for a long time with the latest technology? Tell us in detail about this?
When you wear the mask, you can transmit your voice into others’ smartphone. So that, you can practice social distancing under situations such as diagnosis at hospital and meeting at office, and so on. Online services are getting more and more widely-used, however we still have many situations to meet in person.
What made you come up with a mask with such a sophisticated technology?
The seed of the idea comes from an extracurricular project which was held by an internship student several years ago. The project tried to “read voice” with face muscular sensor. C-FACE does not adopt the muscular sensor technology, however, the concept of transmitting voice in the distance is the same.
How does it deliver our voice to the smart phone?
Inside C-FACE, mic and Bluetooth module are equipped. So that, when connecting the mask with smartphone, the speech data is transmitted to the phone.
What kind of robot technology did you use and why?
-Idea; the combination of mask and “technology” comes from our R&D experience of robot.
-Hardware; sound collection technology of the mic is derived from robot.
-Software; speech-to-text and translation function are technically derived from cinnamon.
-App; smart robot “cinnamon” has a dedicated app for video call and movement control.
You have developed another technology called cinnamon? Tell us in detail about that?
We had developed smart robot “cinnamon” before working on C-FACE. The robot is a service robot which can watch out for/communicate with other people. ‘cinnamon’ can be used at hospital, reception at office and other situation.
How are both your new technology different from each other?
C-FACE and cinnamon are different in terms of wearable or not. Both products can transmit voice to remote places.
Japan is known to be a technology and innovation frontrunner, however some solutions are only produced outside its borders? Your opinion on this?
As a technology company, I think it would be wonderful for humankind to work together across borders in manufacturing to create a more convenient and prosperous world. Macroscopically, each company should wrap up the technology what the company should protect. And for the convenience of outsourcing to other companies, I think it is necessary to form a partnership.
In order to stay competitive in the global marketplace, many Japanese corporates have set up open innovation departments, which are specifically tasked with finding cutting-edge technologies and facilitating collaborations with innovative companies. This opens the door for European companies with novel products, materials and solutions to seek partnerships with top Japanese brands? Can you tell us in detail about this?
In general, each country or region has regional characteristics of strong/weak point. For example, Japanese companies have the characteristic of thoroughly developing one technology and material. Demand for each region is different because of different lifestyle and culture. I think it is wonderful to be encouraged to cooperate across nations.
What are your other novel products, materials and solutions that are likely to enter Japan and reach fast market-wide adoption?
We have been and are doing our best to research and develop novel products/technology.