According to UNICEF, nearly 300 million children live in places with toxic air pollution. And because children’s bodies are still in development, pollution can result in permanent lung damage. But how do you convince a kid to wear a potentially life-saving filtration mask when many of the current offerings look scary and constricting?
The Singapore-based health-tech startup Airmotion Laboratories has released the Woobi mask for kids. The Woobi was designed by the Danish industrial design studio Kilo to appeal to directly to children: it’s colorful, customizable, and asymmetrical to minimize the amount of the child’s face the mask covers.
“It’s not a toy, but it borrows elements from a child’s universe,” Kilo founder Lars Larsen tells Co.Design in an email. “It has an organic, soft character and strikes a balance between play and protection.”
The mask comes disassembled in a small toolkit of parts along with an education manual, so that parents can talk to their children about air pollution while putting together the mask. The filters themselves come in different colored caps so that kids can decide which colors they like best, and this modular element to the mask provides the opportunity for further customization and upgrades to filtration technology in the future. To create the translucent, flexible part of the mask, Airmotion took 3D scans of more than 1,000 children between the ages of 6 and 14.
“Our attempts were based around making the mask appear non-technical, while still aiming for it to perform as well as a professional mask,” Larsen says.
The mask, which costs about $38, is aimed at the middle-class market in China, where concern among parents about pollution is on the rise. The Woobi was released in early 2017, and partial proceeds support the Respiratory Health Fund. Airmotion has plans for an adult version of the mask, which should be available by the end of this year.