The US government has launched a $500K competition to find a superior mask style.

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Masks have been a common sight around the world, but many people hate wearing them for a number of fashion purposes. If you feel you have a better idea, the US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) is ready to pay up to $500,000 for it.

The Mask Innovation Challenge aims to find designs that address some of the issues discouraging people from wearing masks. Anyone who wears glasses, for example, would be familiar with the annoyance of driving around blind when their lenses have fogged up. There’s also the issue of skin sensitivity, the physical pain masks create, and the nightmare of having to speak with someone who can’t hear you or see your lips. Furthermore, certain masks advertise standards of security without any clinical evidence to back up these arguments.

The masks, which must be mass-producible and low-cost-per-use machines, are designed in two stages. Phase one is divided into two tracks: building on existing structures and introducing emerging technology and products not already used in masks. This phase’s top ten winners will each earn up to $10,000.

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The second stage is the proof-of-concept stage. This section allows participants to apply their proposals in reaction to a hypothetical situation using a completely new template that is not dependent on existing masks. Finalists must submit samples for NIOSH laboratories to search for proof-of-concept. A total of $400,000 in prise money will be distributed to five winners.

Entries for phase one must be submitted by April 21, 2021, using the given template, and must be no longer than 7 pages, including a cover sheet, proposed concept outline, and schematics/figures. More information on step two will be released at a later date.

Last month, we learned that Razer would be producing its RGB-packed Project Hazel mask, which was showed off at CES. Because of its openness and integrated microphones that amplify and improve voices, it solves several popular problems.

Masthead image credit: Maridav

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