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Japan-based firm Donut Robotics began raising funds to produce C-FACE: a Bluetooth-connected face mask that can record conversations, amplify the wearer’s voice, make phone calls, transcribe speech into texts and translate Japanese speech into 8 different languages. Linked to users’ smartphones, the plastic C-FACE can be worn over normal face masks. Donut Robotics’ device is a solution that helps the firm remain in business, as its engineers applied their expertise in robotics to respond to consumers’ COVID concerns. The C-FACE crowdfunding campaign raised 28 million yen (USD 260,000) within 37 minutes and the USD 40 mask will begin shipping in September. Eventually, Donut Robotics will launch C-FACE internationally.
Over the years, the Internet of Things has morphed into the Internet of (seemingly) Everything. To the point where more than a few of these newly-connected objects on the market make us question: Does the world really need this? Just because it can be hooked up to wi-fi...should it be? Is this device – whether it’s an Alexa-enabled showerhead, a USD 2,000 mirror, a twerking teddy bear – worth the potential privacy breach?
On the other hand, adding connectivity to typically tech-free objects (like face masks) or even experiences can be a meaningful move. Now, most of the human needs we’ve had since our days as cave dwellers haven’t really changed – our needs for health, connection, love, and so on. But COVID has disrupted the way we’re accustomed to fulfilling those needs. For example, the need to be heard by others (literally and more abstractly) has become “the need to be heard by others even while my mask is on,” a change C-FACE addresses. In fact, C-FACE is perhaps enhancing communication, because the translation feature makes it easier for wearers to communicate and connect with people they might not have spoken to, pre-COVID.
What long-held needs does your organization already fulfill? Can your product and dev teams figure out how to fulfill consumers’ top priorities, through the lens of radical change? And can you reassure customers that whatever you create – particularly if it’s a connected object – won’t spy on them?
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