*Rapper turned entrepreneur Will.i.am has announced his new tech innovation is the COVID-19-inspired Xupermask (pronounced “supermask”).
The artist teamed with Honeywell International on the wearable face technology, which launches on April 8. Per Women’s Wear Daily, the Xupermask is “made using medical-grade silicone and an adjustable elastic strap, featuring three dual-speed fans and a Honeywell-created filtration system (“High-efficiency Particulate Arresting”), plus noise-canceling audio, a microphone, a magnetic earbud docking system, Bluetooth connectivity and a seven-hour battery,” the outlet writes.
Will.i.am said the idea for the AI mask came to him while he was in London working as a judge on “The Voice UK.”
“March 12, 2020, I was in London, feeling a little anxious getting on an airplane to come back to America and worried about when I’ll be able to come back to the U.K. because I work there,” he recalled.
“I said, ‘Hey, we need to make a mask that is equipped with filters’ — of course, both inhaling and exhaling and air circulation, so that when you’re wearing the mask you don’t feel claustrophobic, especially when we have our silicone seal that allows you to wear glasses and not have to worry about your glasses fogging up,” he continued.
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Will.i.am joined forces with Honeywell in August, and he said of the company: “They’re one of the biggest manufacturers of N95s, so when they saw the tech and verified and validated our efforts to solve this problem, they came on board and helped us innovate and fine-tune the filters,” Will.i.am said.
“We have teams in India and Shenzhen. I worked a lot out of the U.K. as well…It was an amazing, beautiful collaboration because everyone was racing to solve the problem. Everyone was trying to solve the problem to give people peace of mind. And when you have people working on a product that is to give people peace of mind, it brings about a different energy and that energy is, you know, caring for people.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, “people just didn’t want to wear a regular mask,” Will.i.am added. “They put scarves on their face, bandanas on their face. But here we have a robust mask that still gives you that sneaker cool, street edge that goes hand in hand with the sneaker mentality. The sneaker drop, the expressive collaboration design that lends itself to collaborate with other fashion houses down the road.”
Speaking on the lack of funding for Black tech entrepreneurs, Will.i.am said: “That breaks my heart, that people of color, when it comes to tech companies, we don’t have our Silicon Valley. But when you think of communities like Shenzhen in China that came out of nowhere…Now it’s a booming city that makes everything. So, if it can happen in Shenzhen, it could happen in Mississippi. It could happen in Atlanta. It could happen in [L.A.’s] Watts.”
The Black Eyed Peas group leader offers STEM education to underserved kids in L.A. through his i.am Angel Foundation.
“I think primarily the reason why we don’t see that is because people in the inner city and Black communities, there’s no one in tech that looks like them for them to follow suit,” he continued. “And so [with] this collaboration — Honeywell is one of the biggest companies in the world — kids in inner cities, the dreamers of tomorrow, the ones that are going to create the jobs of tomorrow, they know what’s possible now.”
Will.i.am’s Xupermask comes in two colors and sizes and retails for $299 — available at Xupermask.com.