Today, Jake Dyson has unveiled the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones, Dyson’s first step into wearable technology. The Dyson Zone is a set of noise cancelling, high fidelity over-ear headphones which simultaneously deliver immersive sound to the ears, and purified airflow to the nose and mouth. The result of over a decade of air quality research and development, the Dyson Zone air purifying headphones simultaneously tackle the urban issues of air quality and noise pollution.
As the world’s urban population continues to grow, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 9 in 10 people globally breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline pollutant limits. Where NO2 pollution in cities decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic, levels have quickly returned to normal, or exceeded pre-pandemic levels across many global cities. It is estimated that more than 100m people, around 20% of the European population, are exposed to long-term noise exposure above WHO guidance. In Hong Kong, Green Power reviewed the data of 15 general air monitoring stations last year and found that the air quality health index (AQHI) exceeded the standard – 7 or above, and the total number of hours with high health risk has increased 35% from1,609 hours in 2020 to 2,178 hours in 2021.
Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer said:“Air pollution is a global problem – it affects us everywhere we go. In our homes, at school, at work and as we travel, whether on foot, on a bike or by public or private transport. The Dyson Zone™ purifies the air you breathe on the move. And unlike face masks, it delivers a plume of fresh air without touching your face, using high-performance filters and two miniaturised air pumps. After six years in development, we’re excited to deliver pure air and pure audio, anywhere.”
6 years & 500 prototypes
The Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones are borne of Dyson’s 30 years of expertise in airflow, filtration and motors technologies and deep understanding of indoor and outdoor air quality. The compressors in each earcup draw air through the dual-layer filters and project two streams of purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth, channelled through the non-contact visor. Sculpted returns on the visor ensure purified airflow is kept near to the nose and mouth and diluted as little as possible by external crosswinds. The Dyson Zone™ delivers rich, immersive audio and relief from unwanted city noise thanks to advanced active noise cancelling (ANC), low distortion and a neutral frequency response, to faithfully replicate music or audio as the creator intended.
Originally a snorkel-like clean air mouthpiece paired with a backpack to hold the motor and inner workings, the Dyson Zone™ air-purifying headphones evolved dramatically over its six years in development. More than 500 prototypes saw one motor initially placed at the nape become two compressors, one in each ear-cup and the evolution of the snorkel mouthpiece into an effective, contact-free visor that delivers clean air without full-face contact – a brand-new clean air delivery mechanism.
Developing a non-contact solution was a must for Dyson engineers, to avoid the discomfort and irritation often associated with full-contact alternatives. The visor, therefore, was a critical element. The airflow pathways and visor design are central to delivering pure air. The geometries of the visor and the visor returns, alongside the central mesh that diffuses the two jets of airflow, ensure that the purified air exiting the filters is effectively delivered to the nose and mouth in crosswinds, and for the wearer’s specific facial shape. Going beyond existing testing methods, Dyson engineers use a breathing manikin fitted with medical-grade mechanical lungs and sensing equipment, which ‘inhales’ pollution replicating human breathing patterns in a controlled chamber. They then measure the pollution level within the nose and throat to determine the filtration efficacy of those particles which would otherwise end up in Frank’s artificial lung.
Precision-engineered compressors within the earcups draw air through the dual-layer filters, intelligently designed to fit within the considerable space constraints of a headphone. The negatively charged electrostatic filter media captures ultrafine particles such as allergens, and particles from sources such as brake dust, industry combustion and construction whilst a potassium-enriched carbon layer captures city gas pollutants like NO2 and SO2. The compressor channels the purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth via the contact-free visor, formed with flexible returns that to channel the flow of purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth.
A scientific approach
A first foray into the world of audio, Dyson engineers took a scientific approach, choosing not to rely on a ‘golden listener’ approach that many others do. Dyson’s team of audio engineers and acousticians sought to engineer excellent audio led by metrics, backed up with extensive listening trials. The result: pure, rich audio and advanced noise cancellation. Despite the space constraints inherent with a wearable device, Dyson engineers developed a high performing neodymium electroacoustic system within each earcup. A wide frequency response, precise left-right balance and distortion significantly below what can be detected by the human ear, offer a faithful reproduction as the musicians or creators intended.
Through solving a problem of Dyson’s own creation, the engineers have developed an advanced noise cancellation system. Together, the device’s passive attenuation and the ANC, with its unique array of microphones, reduce unwanted environmental noise and motor tones to provide advanced noise cancellation at home, at work and on-the-go. Large, angled ear cushions mould around the listener’s ear, with a foam density and headband clamp force engineered specifically for both comfort and optimal noise reduction.
Engineered for comfort
Every head on the planet is unique. As Dyson’s first wearable, Dyson engineers had to think about comfort in a new way. Detailed research into head and face geometries meant engineers could measure how the Dyson Zone™ air purifying headphones would sit on and perform on different heads– informing the clamp force of the headband, the geometry and materials of the visor, the adjustability of the machine and much more.
Taking inspiration from the shape and design of a horse’s saddle, the Dyson Zone™ is engineered to distribute weight over the sides of the head, rather than on the top. A saddle typically curves over the horse’s spine distributing the load through contact with the areas left and right of the backbone – a format used for the central cushion on the headband.
The development of the ear cushions is important for three reasons: comfort, on-head stability and passive attenuation. Foam is an obvious choice for ear cushions but Dyson engineers dug deep into the make-up of different foams to choose the most suitable material based on density, rate of compression and spring-back rate – all of which change the way pressure translates onto the head. When choosing the optimal foam for the ear and headband cushions, it was important to balance the comfort it provides, its stability when moulded to the ear, but critically the acoustic benefit it provides. Moulding around the ear increases the size of the contact points providing better sealing – and inhibiting additional urban noise entering the ear. The cushion is purposefully flatter than conventional ear cushions for both attenuation and comfort, and the cushions are angled in line with the angle of the ear on the head for optimal comfort.
A global effort
The Dyson Zone™ air-purifying headphones have been engineered by teams across the UK, Singapore, Malaysia and China, with a particular focus on software on our South East Asia campuses. The app development and integration was a critical project to ensure a smooth connection journey and provide intelligent, meaningful air and noise pollution tracking features. Robustness and durability are central to a product that leaves the home with the wearer. As with all Dyson machines, the Dyson Zone™ air-purifying headphones have been tested to the extremes – in temperature-controlled chambers, drop-testing, material and fabric wear testing, button robustness and much more. Our expert test engineers in the Dyson Malaysia Development Centre are integral to this, as is the geography – putting it through its paces in warmer climates and higher humidity compared to UK-based testing.
The Dyson Zone™ air-purifying headphones will be available from Autumn 2022. Timings will vary by geography. Full product specification and further details on availability will be announced in the coming months.
Jake Dyson unveils the new Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones, London. Issue date: Wednesday March 30, 2022. PA Photo. The air-purifying headphones with active noise cancellation, which are Dyson’s first piece of wearable technology, launching autumn 2022, draw air through the dual-layer filters in each earcup and deliver two streams of purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth. The launch of the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones follows the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimates that nine in 10 people globally breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline pollutant limits. Photo credit should read: Matt Alexander/PA wire.