LG unveiled its new PuriCare™ Wearable Air Purifier on Thursday, essentially putting one of LG’s home air purifiers on your face. The device looks like something George Jetson might wear if he got stuck in the bad timeline—with climate change-fueled wildfires, militarized police tear-gassing peaceful protesters, and a global pandemic of respiratory illness.
LG is hailing the battery-powered device as a “new category of wearable air purifier technology” because it uses two H13 HEPA filters and provides the user significant protection from hazardous particles in the air. The high-tech mask even adjusts air intake based on the wearer’s breathing patterns.
“With its Dual Fans and patented Respiratory Sensor, LG’s wearable air purifier allows users to take in clean, filtered air while the Respiratory Sensor detects the cycle and volume of the wearer’s breath and adjusts the dual three-speed fans accordingly,” LG said in a press release published overnight. “The fans automatically speed up to assist air intake and slow down to reduce resistance when exhaling to make breathing effortless.”
The only problem, as the Verge notes, is that the mask might not be a good choice during the coronavirus pandemic. One of the reasons that public health experts recommend masks is because it can help stop the spread of the virus by people who might not know they have the disease. Masks can protect the wearer from contracting covid-19, but LG’s new mask doesn’t protect people around the wearer, defeating the purpose of universal masking, especially when asymptomatic transmission is so common.
The new mask would, however, be theoretically useful during wildfire season, as thousands of acres burn and make it hazardous to breathe in places like California right now. Last summer, the wildfires in Australia were so bad that indoor smoke alarms were being set off in downtown Sydney. LG’s new mask would likely be a welcome addition in a scenario like that.
How soon with this new LG mask be available and where can you buy it? That part is unclear. LG’s press release says that it will be available in the “fourth quarter” in “select markets.” We don’t know if that includes the U.S. at this point.
It doesn’t even look like LG bothered to put a working prototype on a human being for their latest press release. The company used a stock photo model and simply photoshopped the mask on his face. This particular model appears to be a favorite for the tech crowd. In recent years he’s gotten in-ear headphones and has hawked private car services in Europe.
There were a lot of possible futures we were promised in the 20th century. There was the jetpack future, the flying car future, the the robot butler future. Versions of utopia were always just around the corner. But we clearly got the dystopian future filled with anti-pollution personal wear, widespread panic, and a scenario where some of America’s largest cities are struggling to survive.
Thankfully, we haven’t seen nuclear apocalypse and permanent underground bunkers yet, but honestly that’s always on the table, given the sheer number of near-misses we’ve had over the past half-century.
We may as well suit up for the dystopia we’re living in, with catastrophe around every corner. And we can’t help but wonder if the predominant fashion trend of the 2020s will be a rich vein of LG-style dystopian tech. Perhaps we should call it Immortan Jetson chic.