Is Dyson Zone COVID safe? Dyson answers the critics on its headphones/purifier hybrid

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The Dyson Zone, the home appliance brand’s wearable headphone / air purifier hybrid, is one of the wilder product reveals in recent years thanks to its sci-fi looks and unlikely pairing of functionality. But it’s being released into a world that’s now a magnitude wilder than when it was conceived, with a population enduring two years of the COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

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Upon its reveal, the Dyson Zone (some details of which remain shrouded in secrecy despite a fresh media look this week that TechRadar was in attendance for) was put under intense scrutiny by external engineers.

One viral Twitter thread analyzing the device, authored by Naomi Wu, questioned whether its air purifying technology was safe for public personal use in the COVID-19 era, given the way the Dyson Zone projects airflow around its wearer.

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But speaking to TechRadar, Sean Ng, Dyson’s Design Engineer on the product, moved to reassure potential users that the Dyson Zone did not amplify the potential spread of the virus.

“It’s a good point, and I get asked about this a lot”, said Ng at Dyson’s UK campus in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

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“I think firstly, we haven’t released the specs publicly. So a lot of these are still assumptions and speculations. We can look at it scientifically. The first point is that this is a very gentle airflow to your face, and it’s targeted at your nose and mouth so it doesn’t actually ‘jet’ any air out into the room, and certainly doesn’t jet powerfully onto your face. The mesh at the middle of the visor actually diffuses that air, so you get a really comfortable flow.

“The second point is that you’ve got air purified to a really high standard that goes into the visor and that mixes with your exhaled air. So that scientifically reduces the concentration of the germs or the particles in your exhaled air. So there’s an overall decrease in the concentration that’s expelled to the environment.

“Also, there’s the fact that this visor acts as a physical barrier for any projection or any droplet that comes out at high speed. So it blocks a lot of those droplets. We’ve done internal testing to show that it captures a lot of those droplets – there might be some droplets that come out from the bottom but that will be then directed at the bottom part of your face, and not really at someone. So I think it is incorrect to say that the Zone projects germs all over a room.”

(Image credit: Dyson)

Dyson is confident in the Zone’s ability to not adversely affect the chances of COVID-19 infection for those around the wearer then. And since the original announcement of the product, Dyson has revealed a medical-grade face mask attachment that can clip into the visor to further defend against the spread of the virus by blocking a wearer’s exhalations.

Personal protection

But what about the wearer themselves? Are the built-in purifiers capable of filtering COVID-19 out of the air around them? While Dyson admitted that tests in this regard are “ongoing”, the team remains confident in the capabilities of its filtration system.

“That is really a valid concern,” agreed Ng.

“What I need to emphasize is that you’ve got this two stage filtration technology that’s purifying that air, and delivering that clean air to your face. So it’s not like sucking up the virus and spitting out the virus again – that air is being filtered through our filters. We’ve not specifically tested with COVID itself, so I can’t claim in relation to COVID yet, but we’ve tested with particles down to 0.1 microns and similar sizes to the virus particles as well.”

Dyson is aware then that concerns around the virus are legitimate and reasonable, and it’s an interesting problem for the team to address before the Zone’s as-yet-unrevealed launch date arrives.

Many years in development, COVID-19 would not have been a concern when the company first began designing its wearable air-purifier headphone combo. And yet, in a somewhat cursed-chalice scenario, public awareness of the dangers of the potential particles in the air you breathe in has never been higher.

While the Dyson Zone was never intended as a COVID-19 defense device, it’s understandable that public interest is such that there will be an expectation of the Zone to respond to the concerns of the virus in some way.

If Dyson can eventually get the Zone to a point where it can categorically state the headphone purifier is beneficial in the fight against the virus, what currently exists as a curious, niche and remarkably engineered product may find itself with far greater mass appeal.

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