31 May 2023

The Verge: “My week with Dyson’s absurd wearable air purifier”

Oh, this is the Dyson Zone. I tried not to feel self-conscious. When you wear a mask that reminds people of a Batman villain, people are going to be curious.

Oh my gawd, he said. You mean like the vacuum Dyson Dyson?

Yeah, it’s a wearable air purifier. And noise-canceling headphones. It’s a 2-in-1 sorta thing. I explained the basics of how it worked. Air flows into the ear cups, which hide electrostatic filters. That gets funneled into the visor, which then blows clean air into your face. I whipped out my phone to show him the app. His eyes widened when I told him it can also monitor the air quality and noise levels around you — in real time, too.

Holy shit, the owner said. We livin’ in da future.

Victoria Song

The headlines about the upcoming launch of Dyson Zone over past months have briefly caught my attention mostly for the novelty of its dystopian vibe. The more I learn about it now, the more absurd it looks: I assumed the air purifying component was added to the headphones as protection against COVID, but it was actually conceived years before the pandemic, with air pollution in mind. While its sensors track nitrogen dioxide concentrations, the filters cannot remove these noxious gases from the air supplied to its wearer. And while these filters may catch some inbound aerosols carrying COVID or other airborne pathogens, it does absolutely nothing to scrub exhaled air; quite the contrary, it may facilitate the spread as its fans drive air from the wearer’s nose and mouth outwards – similar to hand dryers. Running the air filtration also quickly drains the battery, so people won’t be able to rely on this – flawed – feature for extended periods of time…

This is the Dumbest Product I’ve Ever Reviewed

The more I think about it, the more I become convinced its most dystopian side isn’t even its looks; it’s the silent implication that people should feel individually responsible for the quality of the air they breathe. Just as public health, air and water pollution should evidently fall under the responsibility of governmental bodies, who can set and enforce binding standards on corporations and other sources of pollution to preserve a healthy environment for all citizens. Relying on market forces, company ‘self-regulation’, or individual initiative, has never proven to be an effective way to mitigate externalities affecting entire communities.

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