Dyson patents a wearable air purifier that doubles as headphones

The germ-killing headphones could be more effective than a mask.

If you use public transportation, you know just how gross the air can be. Commuters are constantly coughing and sneezing, which releases thousands of germs into the air. Taking a flight can be even worse, thanks to the recycled air. And that's not to mention pollution-filled cities like Wuhan in China, or even Los Angeles. Wearing a face mask can help prevent you from breathing in those germs and pollutants, but they're not very effective, and they're not exactly socially acceptable. Air purifiers that hang around your neck are subtler, but they're even less beneficial. Dyson's patent for a new type of purifier describes a product that merges an air purification system with a set of headphones for an effective but somewhat subtle solution to staying healthy in germ- or pollution-filled settings.

Dyson's portable air purifier features two speakers assemblies -- both have a filter, an impeller that creates airflow and a motor that drives the impeller. The clean air travels down a nozzle and to a front strip. This strip has an outlet that releases air toward your nose and mouth.

With a 12,000 RPM impeller and a motor on each side of your head, it seems likely that these units will feature active noise cancelling (ANC). Whether or not the noise of the motor and impeller will be a distraction to nearby commuters and coworkers isn't clear. Those same elements of the product bring up the question of battery life -- the headset probably won't last nearly as long as standard wireless headphones. When it comes to the looks of the wearable air purifier, the front strip that directs air toward your nose and mouth may turn out to be more of an unwanted attention-getter than a standard antiviral mask.

This is just a patent, so a commercially available product isn't guaranteed. However, Dyson has been working on a wearable air purifier for over a year, so it seems like this could end up becoming a reality. Furthermore, it does indicate the need for wearable air purification. This may not be something you'd wear every day, but on flights or in polluted areas, it could help avoid illness or damage to the lungs -- and it could be something that flies off the shelf during media-hyped events like the current coronavirus outbreak.