Woobi Play makes safe breathing “fun” for kids

children's health

A Singapore-based health-tech startup has designed an anti-pollution mask targeted for children as young as age six. Woobi Play is pliable and playful, with colorful HEPA-certified modular filters that can prevent 95% of dangerous airborne particulates from entering the wearer’s lungs. Welcome to a world where we incite our kids to breathe safely by making it a game. That this smartly designed device is necessary makes me want to weep. 

UNICEF estimates that 300 million children live in places polluted by toxic air. Exposing developing bodies to harmful particulant matter can result in permanent lung damage. It’s hard enough to convince kids to wash their hands and brush their teeth. How do you persuade them to wear constricting and scary-looking filtration masks? Working with Danish industrial design studio Kilo, Airmotion Laboratories took a page from the folks looking to increase young people’s use of bike helmets by mixing protection with a sense of play.

“It’s not a toy, but it borrows elements from a child’s universe,” Kilo founder Lars Larsen told Co.Design. “It has an organic, soft character and strikes a balance between play and protection.”

Airmotion took 3D scans of more than 1,000 children aged six to 14 before settling on the shape of the translucent mask. Its asymmetrical form minimizes the amount of the child’s face the mask covers, increasing comfort and wearability.

kids face mask

Woobi Play requires assembly, much like LEGO blocks. Its modular system allows children and parents to put the colorful parts together, piece by piece, supported by an educational how-to guide. While building their masks, children also learn about product’s functionality, inviting dialogue with grown-ups about air pollution and health. The modular makeup of the mask allows for further customization and upgrades as future filtration technology evolves.

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The mask is aimed at a middle-class Chinese market, where parental concern about the health risks of pollution is on the rise. Last year China’s Ministry Of Environmental Protection measured air quality in 70 different cities, finding that only 8 met the proper standards.

According to recent WHO data, several cities in the Middle East showed increasingly high levels of air pollution. Based on the new report’s average particulate matter (PM) 2.5 readings, the city with the worst air pollution levels is Zabol in Iran, but Riyadh and Al Jubail in Saudi Arabia also make the top 10.

This product reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s 1954 story All Summer in a Day, a sci-fi tale about a class of schoolchildren on Venus, described as a world of constant rainstorms, where the Sun is only visible for a few hours every seven years. Here on Earth, how much longer until fresh air is equally elusive?

Airmotion has plans for an adult version of the mask, which should be available by the end of this year. The Woobi Play retails for about $38 USD, with a portion of all proceeds supporting the Respiratory Health Fund.

 

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