The Dyson Zone could be one of the most elaborate jokes of all time, or an outstanding innovation. You decide.
It is not often I start a blog with a disclaimer. The timing of the release of this story, could not have been worse, or perhaps better. So, in the fullness of time, don’t judge too harshly if this proves to have been a hoax. From all the checks I have carried out, it looks to be legitimate, and based on that, requires some further investigation. All I would say is, that after six years of research, to have the press release come out on the eve of April Fools’ Day was, well, not the best! So, to the story…
Dyson, the company founded by British inventor, James Dyson, and manufacturer of some truly amazing home appliances, has, for the first time, entered the world of wearables. Named Dyson Zone, they are a pair of noise-canceling, air-purifying headphones. The visor is responsible for blowing filtered air around your mouth via a detachable visor. The earcups deliver purified air, whilst also delivering high def audio. Dyson’s claim is that they will give you both ‘pure air, and pure sound’. The companies’ website tells us these headphones capture city pollution including ‘gas, allergens, and particulate matter’. Quite some claim!
A long time in the making
Although, at first, you could be forgiven for thinking that this product was a reaction to the recent pandemic, you’d be wrong. With over a decade of research in to air quality, Dyson Zone tackles not only air, but also noise pollution as well. According to the World Health Organisation, 9 in 10 people breathe in air that exceeds guideline pollutant limits.
The design of these headphones has changed dramatically over the six years of prototypes. Original models had a snorkel type device mouthpiece, but as the project developed, it became ever more clear that a non-contact wearer experience was hugely important to the company. In the model we see here, there are compressors in each earcup. A filter within the earcups captures allergens and particles. Thereafter, the compressors deliver purified air to the wearers mouth and nose via the under-chin visor.
Although well known for their motor technology, Dyson has never entered the audio field before. Deciding to fly in the face of the ‘golden listener’ approach taken by other audio companies, Dyson, instead, along with their audio engineers and acousticians, sought audio excellence led by metrics and extensive trialling. The decision to create a pair of noise-cancelling headphones was a must for Dyson, as they wanted wearers to have the ability to block out unwanted, city sounds. Reporters that have worn these, remarked on the comfort. The engineers went to great lengths to make a headset that fits comfortably with an even distribution of weight. Inspiration for the design, was taken from a horse saddle with the central of the three head cushions, being slightly curved to distribute the load through contact areas. The ANC (active noise-cancelling), is activated through a physical switch on the earcups themselves. This switch allows the wearer to toggle through various sound profiles to find the most favoured setting.
The air purifying visor is a removable, snap on affair. Once attached, the motors whir-up in the earcups and a very gentle, soft stream of purified air delivered. Think of it almost as personal, portable facial air-conditioning. Much like the audio, there are various settings found for the air-purification too, ranging through low, medium & high. In the light of the pandemic, there is room to wear a mask too, should you wish. There is an app in development, to show the levels of pollution of your current region. At present, the app only allows for cities and regions though, not specific areas such as your workplace or coffee shop. By launch, this may yet be developed, though.
This is not yet clear. No pricing or availability was within the press release, besides saying the Zone would be available from autumn this year. Clearly, the Zone, is aimed directly at commuters as travel once again opens up around the world and could become a massive success. Some real-world testing will be required obviously, and we need to learn about mundane feature’s such as battery life as well, but the early feedback has been all positive. The biggest negative comment, of course, is the look of The Zone when being worn. Again, back to real-world usage, we will need to know how self-conscious you’d feel wearing these on a crowded high street. I mean, I still don’t have enough nerve to wear AirPods Max out, so I am not certain how I would feel about Dyson Zone.
There is one area that I remain sceptical about, and it is similar to the Dyson Blade that you find in many washrooms. You know, the unit on the wall you put your hands in to dry them, have you ever wondered where those particles of water go? It is not a sealed unit, and only so much of the water will go down, the rest I imagine is distributed to the sides. A lovely thought, huh! Well, the same true of the Dyson Zone? It may just be my way of looking at this, but isn’t the Zone, effectively, just a super-spreader? This is not containing your discarded air particles at all. To the contrary, it is just piling them out to the sides for all of those around and behind you. Now look, I am no match for the boffins at Dyson HQ, but, does it not stand to reason, this is taking care of the wearer very nicely, but with little or no regard for those around you. I am sure more will come out over the coming months with further details about this area of concern. The Dyson Zone does very much appeal to my tech personality, but I think there are still one or two issues that will require to be addressed. The price point I expect to be premium, after all, it is a Dyson innovation we’re talking about, but equally, the quality and user experience, will be second to none. Apple & Dyson really do have a similar DNA.
As to the aesthetics, I have a feeling we could get used to them. Masks, seen as odd two years ago, became commonplace, and quickly. We have a knack of adopting and growing used to new designs quicker than we’d think.
All I would warn is…don’t stand down wind to someone wearing one!
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