On January 12, 2021, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Razer, the maker of state-of-the-art gaming hardware, made a surprising announcement …

… well, that is, surprising for Razer, a maker of state-of-the-art gaming hardware.

Razer announced two new products: the prototype transformable gaming chair, and the prototype Project Hazel smart mask. The mask is marketed as “The World’s Smartest Face Mask.”

Project Hazel — The World’s Smartest Face Mask. Source: Razer

And it might just be.

The company’s CES product rollout news release contains these words: “The smart mask intends to help improve the convenience of daily wear while overcoming common social interaction challenges, while the new transformable gaming chair brings full-scale immersion from its haptics, graphics, and lighting in a flexible form factor.”

To discover how smart the Hazel smart mask is, I asked the prototype mask to clarify the above quote during a Zoom call, because, frankly, I’m not sure I’m as “smart” as I need to be to grasp it, especially the part about the chair. It is all about the haptics, after all. Someone with a day job in orange-colored retail has the right to question his skill in deciphering such sophisticated wordplay. Snicker.

Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

The chair kept to itself on the Zoom call. I expected as much. It survives on its looks, and, truth be told, it does look pretty badassical.

The mask, however, paused for a moment, possibly cogitating, but probably more for effect, and then answered, “Tom … wait, can I call you ‘Cosmic’ Tom? Ah … great. Well, Cosmic, masks like me are easier to wear for the average human and help make him or her more comfortable than if they’re wearing ordinary masks. Ouch! Ordinary is too harsh, isn’t it? Let’s just call them masks that are less than smart, shall we?”

I blinked.

The mask continued, “My bon ami, the transformable gaming chair, delivers the most positive possible user experience because feedback tech, graphics, and lighting are built into its entirely flexible and comfortable design.”

I blinked again. Wow. That IS one really smart mask!

All joking aside, the Hazel smart mask will be amazing when (and if) it becomes available. When the pandemic hit all around the world Razer redirected some of its production capacity to make certified medical masks and donated 1 million of them to frontline workers to help protect them. Along the way, the engineers at Razer took a flier on making a niftier, more sophisticated mask.

Why Is It So Smart?

It’s just a prototype, but Razer has succeeded to such an extent that even me, a guy who has never bought a first-generation computer, game console, or gamer gear in his life, want one … and want it now.

Project Hazel mask from Razer. Source: Razer

The N95-compatible Project Hazel mask has a see-through section so that the wearer’s mouth is fully visible. It has interior lights that illuminate when it becomes dark enough to need them. VoiceAmp Technology amplifies the wearer’s voice through a built-in microphone and amplifier so you don’t sound like the teacher in the Peanuts specials when you talk. And the Project Hazel filters are built to be sanitized by UV lights installed within the unit’s fast charging storage box.

Hazel Is In The (Colorful) Details

The cherry on top of the Project Hazel sundae is probably its most inconsequential feature: wearers of the mask can turn on two Razer Chroma RGB lighting zones (again I asked the prototype mask for clarification and it said, “They’re round rings of LED lights on the filters that shine in up to 16.8 million colors or the user can choose one of several animated lighting effects.”). Did I tell you that I love this mask? Soooo smart.

It’s possible the Project Hazel mask will not ever see the light of day. In the past Razer has developed gizmos like this to perfect the tech, then used it within other products they made. I hope that’s not the case with Project Hazel.

And if you ask me, this need for protection from Covid-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. And there is enough disposable cash floating around the tech sector to make production of the Project Hazel mask more than just a little bit viable.

And when this project does get green lit, Razer production peeps, and you know who you are … your very smart Project Helen prototype has my number. Don’t be strangers.

Do you have a favorite mask style that you wear? Or a subject matter (DC / Marvel / Anime / etc.). If so, I want to know about it!! And your comments are welcome!!