Today Dyson has announced their first ever wearable product, The Dyson Zone.
Now, you might have had some expectations of what the first Dyson wearable product would be. Maybe it would be one of those wearable hair dryers, or some kind of styling hat you wore to sleep and then woke up with your hair in soft ringlets. Even a normal pair of headphones would make sense because Dyson is in the business of moving air, and sound is basically just air moving in specific ways.
If you guessed that last one, you would be kind of right. It’s a pair of noise cancelling headphones with a large battery that powers a personal air purifying visor that looks like it leapt off the screen from a Mad Max/Power Rangers crossover. The closest real world gadget I can compare it to is the PediSedate GameBoy peripheral that sedated children before medical procedures.
If your initial reaction to The Dyson Zone is the less PG version of “what the frilly heck is this”, I need you to know that I watched the briefing presentation in a room by myself a month ago and signed an NDA to not talk about it. Not talking about it has caused near physical pain. I have been writing about technology for roughly 15 years and this is the craziest device I have ever seen a major company launch. I can’t believe this exists and is a real thing. It’s amazing. People will buy and wear these in public. Hell, I will probably buy and wear one of these in public.
The reason why the ear cups are so large is to house the batteries that make the whole thing work. The battery life for audio+ANC only is 40 hours, audio and low purification gets you 4.5 hours, and you can use them plugged into power to get you through a long flight. They charge using a USB-C port on the left ear cup. They’ve got 11 microphones, nine for noise cancellation and two for phone calls. You can wear the headphones without the visor, but you need the headphones to use the visor. The filter is replaceable and will need to be switched out roughly every 12 months. It is not designed to be worn by children.
I’m torn because I love air purifiers and headphones. I collect headphones and they’re the gadget that first made me fall in love with gadgets. And, since I have the asthma and allergies of one of those inbred English royals, I am extremely interested in air purifiers and have always wanted a portable one. Imagine never again having to walk into a cloud of Lynx spray and desperation without protection? I just never imagined the two devices being combined this early and it’s making the apocalypse seem awfully nigh.
If you’re thinking this will be a good alternative to pandemic face masks, think again. The Dyson Zone wasn’t designed for the pandemic, and has in fact been in the works for the last six years. Fun fact: the original design was apparently a kind of backpack and snorkel combination, and it took 500 prototypes to get to this version.
Wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season more broadly is to protect other people from you potentially carrying and spreading the virus without knowing, while this purifier only protects you from other people. Put simply, the air that goes into your face has been purified, the air that comes out of your face is someone else’s problem.
The good news, though, is that there is a P2 mask attachment that clips into the purifying visor so you can have fresh, purified air pumped into your protective mask. It’s a game changer for people in very high-risk groups (like people with cancer, autoimmune diseases, or anaemia), but also makes this device seem even more dystopian. Potentially lifesaving, but still one of those moments where you need to stop and ask how we came to this point as a species.
The Dyson Zone was created and tested on a mannequin named Frank, who kind of looks like the love child of Aang from Avatar: The Last Air Bender and Vision from the MCU (by which I mean he’s bald and has a strip of sensors on his face). Frank has a set of mechanical lungs and can mimic the human breathing profile. To see how The Dyson Zone reacted to a variety of real-world situations, they put Frank in a wind tunnel and then blasted polluted air at him. According to the briefing, the Zone did a good job of protecting Frank from most of the pollution, so that’s a good sign.
The Dyson Zone’s purpose is to help people with the problem of air pollution and noise pollution, which plague roughly 90 per cent of the world’s population. This is a really important problem to solve because, according to the WHO, 4.2 million people die as a result of poor outdoor air quality each year, which is horrifying. This will be fantastic in areas with high pollution, like parts of India and China, and even Australia during bushfire season.
Another good option would be to lobby governments around the world to put in stronger environmental protections and stop letting major corporations pollute the Earth and make it hazardous to the health of billions of people. However, if that’s not an option, an expensive headset using plastic and rare Earth materials, so rich people can still breathe, making fresh air a luxury item, is a solid plan B.
Jokes about our impending, climate change-related deaths aside, if you can get past the appearance, a device like this really does stand a chance of helping vulnerable people who can afford it. This isn’t the first air purification mask, Razer did release one last year, but this is the first time portable air purification has gone mainstream.
That said, do you think they had tech reviews of the Stillsuits and masks in the world of Dune? Was there some kind of tech reviewer in that universe laughing at the absurdity of it all before those things became essential to their survival while they wrote up the announcement piece? When the House of El realised Krypton was doomed, did they also sell masks like this?
The Dyson Zone seems like a great product, as someone who relies on noise cancelling headphones in crowds, and also relies heavily on air purifiers at home (I’ve seen the difference they made to my family’s asthma), I really want one of these. I just wish their existence didn’t feel like the next step towards the apocalypse due to widespread inaction on climate change.
Dyson says The Dyson Zone will be available in stores in the second half of 2022, and we’ll bring you a review as soon as we can. Pricing has not been announced yet.