This N95-like mask would allow you to unlock your phone with Face ID – CNET

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Aeri concept art.

        <p>If you&#039;re struggling to unlock your <a href="https://www.cnet.com/topics/phones/" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">phone</a> with <a href="https://www.cnet.com/tags/facial-recognition/" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">facial recognition</a> while wearing a face mask due to the <a href="https://www.cnet.com/how-to/coronavirus-and-covid-19-all-your-questions-answered/" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">coronavirus</a> outbreak, a better alternative may be on the way. The Chinese tech company Huami, best known for its <a href="https://www.cnet.com/reviews/amazfit-bip-review/" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">Amazfit</a> wearable devices, is working on a transparent N95-like face mask that can also clean itself. 

Many cities already require their residents to wear masks in public and major US airlines have announced they will soon make them mandatory on flights. Face masks have become an important part of our new normal. So far, shortages of N95 and surgical masks, both reserved for health care workers, have meant people are relying on cloth masks.

Read more: Where to buy face masks

But while these types of mask do help contain the virus, they have significant shortcomings. They don't filter out small air particles, they have to be washed properly on a regular basis and they're not well ventilated. They also make it impossible to unlock your phone with facial recognition.

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Aeri concept art showing built-in ultraviolet lights that disinfect it.

Huami hopes to solve most of these problems with the Amazfit Aeri mask. It comes with removable air filters and will have built-in ultraviolet light emitters. By plugging the mask into a USB-C plug for a few minutes, it can disinfect itself after every use. This would allow each filter to be effective for one and a half months, according to a Huami spokesperson. That's much longer than the current eight hours N95 masks are good for. (Note that N95 is a specification set by the US Food and Drug Administration, ensuring that the mask blocks 95% of all particles. It's not clear if Huami is aiming to meet this designation.)

The Aeri mask would also be made with transparent anti-fog material so that enough of your facial features would be visible to unlock your phone using facial recognition technology like Face ID. And the modular design would allow it to house different accessories like an eye shield or a fan, which would make exercising with a face mask slightly less suffocating.

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The company is currently making prototypes of its Aeri masks, but said it will likely take anywhere from six months to a year to bring it to market. Though it's still too early for pricing, Huami's spokesperson said the company is aiming to make it as "affordable" as the rest of its Amazfit products. The company's Amazfit Bip smartwatch retails for $80, which is less than half the price of similar Fitbit, Samsung and Apple smartwatches.

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