Have an idea for a better surgical face mask? Consider teaming up with a youngster to enter the latest XPrize invention competition: A design for a surgical face mask to protect against COVID-19 that doesn’t suffer from the drawbacks of existing masks.
Organizers say resistance to wearing face masks stems from their numerous downsides. An XPrize survey revealed these downsides included that the masks fog glasses, are uncomfortable, can’t easily be worn during exercise, don’t fit well, and, of course, cant’ be worn while eating or drinking. These problems help explain why one-third of the U.S. population don’t wear masks regularly.
“If everyone in the U.S. wore a mask for three weeks, just three weeks, we would not have anymore coronavirus because there would be no more spread,” says Marc Benioff, CEO of the cloud computing company Salesforce and one of the contest benefactors.
The eight-month contest is open to innovators aged 15 to 24. The thought behind making it a youth competition was to boost the chances that the winning design would appeal to young people, organizers say. Three winning teams will split a $1 million prize purse and will be connected to rapid manufacturing opportunities in the U.S. to accelerate the production of their reimagined masks.
“Currently, we are experiencing a crisis within a crisis,” states Peter Diamandis, the founder and executive chairman of the XPrize Foundation. “Studies show masks are effective in slowing and preventing the spread of COVID-19, yet even as cases surge a large number of individuals are still not adopting the preventive measure. We understand that masks can be ill-fitting, uncomfortable, unfashionable, and that the most effective masks are often unavailable or expensive for everyday people. We need an alternative, that’s why XPrize is turning to the world’s young innovators to help reinvent the face mask and create an accessible alternative that will help protect against the spread of COVID-19.”
The XPrize team, industry experts, and a panel of cultural ambassadors will judge mask designs on three key criteria:
Filtration efficacy on par with a surgical mask.
Effectiveness addressing at least five of the 10 top reasons people do not wear masks, as determined by the Next-Gen Mask Challenge survey.
“X-Factor of style” that will promote positive mask-wearing behavior.
“We know that wearing a mask greatly minimizes your risk, but for many, traditional options simply don’t fit into their lifestyle,” said Emily Church, XPrize’s executive director of equity and education. “This fact, coupled with the estimation that for every confirmed case there are countless asymptomatic carriers who might be unaware, made it critical to launch this challenge. We know that when empowered and supported, young adults will rise to the challenge and are excited to see these innovations come to life.”
Deadline for sending final design and supporting materials to XPrize is 6:59 p.m. UTC on October 22, 2020. Winners will be announced in February of 2021. More details here.