Wearable computing isn't just about talking shoes and voice-commanded headsets—it can also be used for social good. 

In a new weekly series, BBC Future asks a team of scientists to predict what may be in store for various technologies. This week, they focused on face masks, that curious symbol of modernity in China that points to Westerners' fear of global disease outbreaks, like the Sars epidemic in 2002, which are being snapped up like Pez to filter air and ward against colds. 

As executive creative director Rainer Wessler explained, her Shanghai-based company, Frog, is hard at work on developing AirWaves, a "smart mask" that filters out particles and "map areas of the city to point out the most polluted zones," as BBC describes. 

 

There are a few obstacles to getting it on the shelves, of course. The mask has to look as good as it is useful, and second, there's a big mechanical challenge in fitting "all the components—— like a particle filter, a Bluetooth modem, a battery, and a power management unit — into the mask without compromising its comfort," says Wessler. 

Even so, she expects the mask to meet the challenges with ease. "Face masks have gone through years of evolution and refinement," she says. "I think what has changed is more the environment." 

[via BBC Future]