After months of buzz, you can now order the AIR by MicroClimate. The futuristic helmet evokes galactic vibes and fond thoughts of Elon Musk’s Starman (which is currently nearly 9 million miles from Mars). For $199, you can look like Starman, but not perfectly match it since the AIR only comes in black for now. The helmet offers an alternative to masks by creating its own climate, filtering air that enters and exits the helmet.
How does it work? — The AIR relies on HEPA filters, the cornerstone of many air purifiers, and quiet fans to filter air. It’s unclear, however, whether you’ll be able to replace the HEPA filters or have to order an entire new helmet. The use of these filters actually makes the helmet more effective than N95 masks. In addition to more effective filtration, it also filters the air that leaves the helmet, so you’re not potentially putting others at risk. This fan system also prevents the visor from fogging up.
The acrylic visor allows for full visibility of your face, but it’s a slight sound barrier for the wearer. This clarity is especially a boon for interacting with members of the deaf and hard of hearing community who rely on lip-reading. In videos of CEO Michael Hall wearing the mask, he’s wearing AirPods and it seems like the sound is being recorded through them. Even if that’s the case, the audio is fairly clear and unobstructed by the intake and exhaust fans, so you can take calls with ease. According to Hall, in person, wearers will hear other people’s voice at a lower volume while their voice will seem loud. For others, however, AIR wearers’ vocal volume will be pretty normal.
Fabric extends to the neck to provide a seal for the air, but it’s reportedly not constricting or stuffy. In a messy video, MicroClimate shows how robust the seal is compared to regular masks:
If you have a couple hundred bucks and want an excuse to listen to David Bowie on repeat, this seems like a good deal — especially compared to Vyzr Technologies’ BioVyzr that, even on pre-order, is nearly twice the price.