CES showed off the COVID-19 mask gimmick arms race

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Millions of people in the US started buying face masks in 2020, and companies, unsurprisingly, rushed to take advantage of the surge of demand for a new product. At CES 2021, the gadget-ification of the mask was on full display. Leading the pack was Razer’s transparent voice-amplifying, light-up concept mask. AirPop promoted its Active+ Smart Mask, which monitors users’ breathing rates and alerts them via a smartphone app when the mask’s filter needs changing. Binatone’s MaskFone has built-in earbuds and a mic for phone calls.

Turning masks into a status symbol is nothing new, nor is capitalizing on a disaster to make a buck. Before the pandemic, people wore masks to protect from air pollution, and they’re fashion items in China and…

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