1.11.21 – CNET
The consumer tech conference was forced to go all-digital amid the pandemic, but there are still innovations to fight coronavirus.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended lives around the world over the past year, forcing changes in how we live, work and even eat. At the annual CES show this week, tech companies are discussing a variety of ways to fight back against COVID-19 through masks, disinfectants, air purifiers and touchless technology.
The companies understand that no one technology can win the battle against the virus, which is why many of them are positioned as part of the new normal that life’s turning into. One such company, Plott, built a doorbell called the Ettie that can take people’s temperature before they’re allowed inside. Another, Alarm.com, created a Touchless Video Doorbell in an effort to cut down on transmission of bacteria and viruses that we otherwise often leave on places we touch.
Watch this: LG unveils air-purifying gadgets at CES 2021 1:56
It’s “another way we can stay vigilant and protect one another,” Alarm.com said.
There are robots that radiate ultraviolet light to disinfect high-touch, high-traffic areas in a corporate office, retail store or restaurant. There are sensors that stick to your body to detect flulike symptoms with near-hospital-grade accuracy. And there’s a mask that has a built-in microphone so you can still take a call and be easily heard when you keep your mask on. Its name, appropriately, is MaskFone. “The MaskFone is a daily essential that protects you and anyone you cross paths with from harmful bacteria, viruses and pollution.”
These new coronavirus-fighting products are just the latest way tech is becoming a key part of modern life. Over the past year, countries around the world have instituted health lockdowns, pushed workers to telecommute and asked families in different households to stay apart. As many people have followed those guidelines, they’ve turned to videoconferencing, social networking and messaging apps to help stay in touch.
They’ve used phones powered by Apple and Google software to help warn one another when they may have been exposed to the virus. And governments have created websites to help people avoid getting sick and identify when they might be.
Many tech companies see this moment as an opportunity to prove their value, despite years of privacy and political scandals that have hurt their reputations and eroded trust among their customers.
Armed with more power and cash than almost any industry in history, the tech industry says it sees a calling to help.
“Our mission is to create products that play a meaningful role in people’s lives,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at one of the company’s livestreamed presentations in November. For 2021, he proclaimed Apple will do even more.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that new products shown at CES are often still in their development stage. Health products in particular may not have independent studies to back up their claims.
Still, these new products do offer a look at what’s to come and what might help make life a little easier during this crisis.
While the MaskFone offers practicality for working people, there are other mask technologies built around health too.
One such mask is the AirPop Active+, a smart mask that comes with a sensor that tracks your breathing and mixes it with local air quality data to identify when you need to replace your filter. AirPop, the company behind the mask, said its masks will be offered this month for $150.
Another, Amazfit, built a transparent-disinfecting mask that claims to clean its filters with built in UV lights within 10 minutes.
Perhaps the flashiest mask on the show floor came from gaming computer and accessories maker Razer. That company announced Project Hazel, a transparent mask with a built-in microphone, lights and speaker that help people to more easily see and hear you when you talk.
It has other flourishes like silicon edges to help create an airtight seal and a sterilization case. Razer didn’t say when it’d become available.
If standard filtration isn’t enough for you, LG can put an air purifier on your face. The PuriCare Mask has a built-in HEPA filter, fans to move air and sensors too. It’s battery operated, lasts up to eight hours and takes about two hours to charge over USB-C.
The device also comes with a case that sanitizes the mask with UV lights in 30 minutes. So far, it’s only sold in Asia and the Middle East, and LG hasn’t said when the mask will hit US markets or how much it’ll cost when it does.
The most important health tech of CES 2021
In the air
Another way tech companies think they can help fight coronavirus is through air filtration. The Luft Duo, for example, is a battery-powered air purifier that claims to clean the air around you. It does that with a combination of disposable HEPA filters and UV light. It’s about the size of a bobble head for your car dashboard.
Another, CleanAirZone, built an air filter that uses “natural biotics and enzymes derived from nature,” rather than traditional filters. Whether that actually does anything meaningful is yet to be seen.
Meanwhile, Airthings built a sensor called Wave Plus, which tracks carbon dioxide levels, humidity and temperature, which could help identify how much more likely may be to transmit the virus. The Wave Plus is built for offices while the smaller Wave Mini is meant for in-home use.
All these technologies aren’t enough of a defense on their own though. The Environmental Protection Agency said they can’t protect you from COVID-19 on their own. It says people need to use it in addition to “other best practices recommended by CDC and others.”
Light the way
Robots and masks built with UV light as a disinfectant. There are refrigerators too, which use UV light to disinfect your water as it’s being dispensed.
That’s the idea behind LG’s line of InstaView refrigerators, which — as their name suggests — have a semi-transparent glass window on the door that lights up when you knock twice on the glass. And the new models being announced during CES got a couple COVID-19 upgrades.
Aside from the UV light sanitizer, the fridge also has a microphone and speaker now, so you can say “open the fridge door,” and it’ll do just that. LG hasn’t said how much they’ll cost, but previous premium LG fridges have gone for up to $4,000.
Companies are offering UV light products for cars too. Automotive supplier GHSP announced a Grenlite UV system for everyday cars. It’s already used in emergency service vehicles, mass transit and commercial vehicles.
“GHSP’s Grenlite system seeks to provide drivers with greater peace of mind that their car is safe and germ free,” GHSP said in a statement.
Pandemic tech’s already reached our face, our phones, our food and our air — it was only a matter of time before it’d show up in our bathrooms too.
Kohler built a toilet that flushes with the wave of a hand, for example. You can live out your pandemic-fighting Jedi dreams for up to $1,000 starting in March.
The company also has a $3,100 toilet with a few extra features, including auto opening and closing, a remote control, and a fancy bidet.
We’ll be on the lookout for more COVID-19 fighting tech throughout the week. So stay tuned to CNET for any more CES news.
First published on Jan. 11, 2021 at 12:21 p.m. PT.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.