This is not dystopian science fiction. Dyson’s new Zone air-purifying headphones may look as wild as they look, but it’s a real device you’ll be able to buy this fall, according to Dyson.
For Dyson, a company best known for its high-end vacuum cleaners, this is the first foray into wearable technology. The Zone is a set of noise-canceling over-ear headphones that “simultaneously deliver immersive sound to the ears and purified airflow to the nose and mouth”, addressing “urban air quality issues and noise pollution”. No word yet on pricing, but it seems safe to assume these will cost more than your typical high-end noise canceling headphones fromand and maybe even more than listeners.
There have been rumors that Dyson has been working on such a device for years. In 2018, Bloomberg reported that Dyson was working on aand in 2020 Dyson filed a patent for a new pair of headphones with an integrated air filter.
“Air pollution is a global problem – it affects us everywhere we go. In our homes, at school, at work and when we travel, whether on foot, by bike or on public transport or private,” says Jake Dyson, engineering director (and son of the company’s eponymous founder). “The Dyson Zone purifies the air you breathe on the go. And unlike face masks, it delivers a plume of cool air without touching your face, using high-performance filters and two miniaturized air pumps. After six years of development, we’re excited to deliver clean air and clean sound, anywhere.”
According to Dyson, the air filtration component is a “touchless” system, meaning it doesn’t touch your face like a mask but instead sits right in front of it. “The compressors in each ear cup draw air through the dual-layer filters and direct two streams of purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth, channeled through the contactless visor,” says Dyson. “Sculpted returns on the visor ensure that purified airflow is kept close to the nose and mouth and diluted as little as possible by external crosswinds.”
Dyson says developing a touchless solution was crucial in order to avoid “the discomfort and irritation associated with full-contact alternatives”. In the last, no one seems to complain too much about wearing filter plugs in their noses to draw moisture from exhaled air into their suit for drinking later. But in the real world, people can have strong emotions about wearing anything on their face, especially masks.
Dyson says that to test the Zone, its engineers used a breathing dummy named Frank that was fitted with medical-grade mechanical lungs and sensing equipment that replicated human breathing patterns in a controlled chamber. This detection equipment measured pollution levels in the nose and determined “the efficiency of filtering these particles, which would otherwise end up in Frank’s artificial lung”. The dummy was named Frank because he reminded engineers of Frankenstein, a Dyson representative told CNET.
Earlier this year, Razer released its cyberpunk styleair purifying mask. Initially, the company said it used N95 grade air filters, but then encountered bad publicity when it had to withdraw that designation. Dyson does not refer to any grade of medical mask when it comes to air filtration, but says electrostatic filtration captures 99% of pollution from particles as small as 0.1 microns, such as dust, pollen and bacteria and a potassium-enriched carbon filter captures city gases like NO2, SO2 and O3. The cost of replacing this filter is still up in the air, but the filters for its full-size air purifiers .
On the audio side, Dyson says you can expect a premium listening experience with a precise, neutral audiophile sound profile and proprietary advanced noise cancellation. The headphones are also designed with comfort in mind, although Dyson hasn’t announced the headphones’ weight or battery life with air filtration and noise cancellation. Each earbud houses two motors, and Dyson says they’re the smallest of any of its machines to date. The headphones connect via Bluetooth – no word on the version number – and can also be used to make voice calls.
As soon as we get our hands on a review sample later this year, we’ll provide more details on how the headphones perform and how they feel to wear on the streets and subways of New York. We imagine we’ll get some interesting reactions from our fellow travelers.
Key features of the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones, by Dyson
- Radical new format for delivering purified air and high-fidelity sound on the go
- Electrostatic filtration captures 99% of particulate pollution as small as 0.1 micron, such as dust, pollen and bacteria
- Potassium-enriched carbon filter captures city gases like NO2, SO2 and O3
- Non-contact air distribution visor channels two streams of purified air to the nose and mouth, specially designed for outdoor and crosswind use
- The smallest of any Dyson machine to date, two motors sit in each ear cup and are the ‘beating heart’ of the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones.
- Advanced ANC and a high-performance neodymium electro-acoustic system deliver rich, immersive sound that faithfully reproduces audio as the artist or creator intended
- 15 undergraduate students from the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology worked on the Dyson Zone project, supporting disciplines as diverse as acoustic development, electronics and airflow systems.
- 3 ANC modes: Isolation, Conversation and Transparency
- Isolation mode: highest level of active noise cancellation
- Conversation Mode: Activates when you dip the visor — automatically turns off purification to save battery and amplifies conversation.
- Shipping this fall