NEW AUDIO!

June 15, 2021: Co-inventor, Calvin Laughlin introduces Ampli-Mask on the Ellen K Morning Show on KOST 103.5 in Los Angeles.

Inventor:

  • Calvin Laughlin​, Los Angeles, CA (US)
  • ​Carlos Mireles​, Chicago, IL (US)

Assignee:

  • Stanford University​, Palo Alto, CA
    (US)

​Filed:

  • Nov. 5​, ​2020
    Patent in Process

INTRODUCTION

My name is Calvin Laughlin III, and I am a first-year student at Stanford University. I propose a mask attachment that falls under "Phase 1: Other Designs/Technologies." The technology is titled the "Ampli-Mask," and it is an attachment that amplifies one's voice under a mask to allow for better communication while eliminating need to pull down masks to talk, thus limiting unnecessary COVID spread.

ABSTRACT

While masks are effective in stopping the dispersion of particles in the air, they have the unintended consequence of stifling sound when talking. A solution to this common problem would be an amplifier and microphone apparatus that can be installed onto any mask, allowing the speaker to talk uninhibitedly without having to pull down the mask to be heard

Not only would this be more convenient for the user, but it would also protect others from excess particles that are dispersed when a mask is removed. The design of the antiviral mask has not changed significantly since its popularization in 1919 during the Spanish Flu outbreak, in which it was used in the same manner it is used today: to stifle the number of molecules spread by talking and breathing. This face covering is an incredibly simple way of protecting others, yet it has the unintended consequence of significantly inhibiting speech.

The human vocal cords produce vibrations that are transferred out the mouth, subsequently vibrating the air and producing sound. With a mask between the mouth and the air, vibrations are severely limited, leading to less sound being produced by the individual speaking.

There have been many inventions designed to amplify voice from the speaker side, a few examples being the megaphone and the dual-way intercommunication microphone that is commonly found in ticket booths and bank tellers. Both of these inventions feature an identical system of amplification: a speaking end, which often has a microphone or other device to pick up sound, and an amplifying end, which contains a speaker system. The microphone picks up the sound spoken by the user, digitizes it, and transfers the data to the speaker system, where it is reproduced and amplified.

The "Ampli-Mask" follows the same procedure:

The microphone attached to the cage on the inside picks up the user's voice, transfers it to the speaker via a wiring system, and the speaker reproduces the voice allowing the receiver to hear the user more clearly, while keeping both parties safe.

SOLUTION

I'm sure everyone has had an experience within the past year in which they became frustrated by the inability to understand another person trying to talk while wearing a mask.

These interactions sometimes become hostile, leading to masks being shed and words being traded, which is an event that can lead to infection. The "Ampli-Mask" attempts to remedy this problem as well as assist in other similar problem areas. As we move into the "new normal," we must adapt mask wearing as a daily part of our lives. As such, if masks are here to stay, we will need a way to communicate effectively while still staying safe.

 

A detailed description of the "Ampli-Mask"

The "Ampli-Mask" object is a microphone and speaker system that comprises:

an electret condenser microphone that can convert speech into an electric current via a moving diaphragm, a plastic mouth cage that is made from biodegradable materials that has the functionality of keeping the microphone away from the user's face, an internal magnet speaker that converts the electrical current received from the microphone and vibrates a magnet at identical frequencies to reproduce speech, and a lithium battery to power both the speaker and microphone that can be recharged.

The microphone component of the system is housed in the plastic mouth cage, serving as the base for the entire system. The plastic mouth cage is a half-dome that surrounds the mouth, containing four large holes on each side to allow for minimal obstruction to the user's breathing.

At the apex of the mouth cage (directly-opposite the mouth) rests the microphone, attached to the mouth cage. It rests away from the mouth, so the user is still able to speak. On the backside of the microphone component is the lithium battery that powers the system. The microphone, mouth cage, and battery are all one unit that is housed inside the mask. The system rests within the mask and is attached by two clip mechanisms built into the plastic cage.

The speaker component of the system is a separate piece altogether that is connected by a wire that snakes above or below the mask, not compromising the safety of the user. The speaker component consists of an internal magnet speaker. The object stays attached to the mask via a clip on the wire, likely made of a shape-retaining material such as ABS so that the wires are not frayed in the attachment process. This will allow for both a wired connection and a way to keep the "Ampli-Mask" attached to the user's mask. A wired connection is imperative for the invention because it provides the quickest transfer of electricity. As seen with a speech jammer, if an individual's speech is played back to them only a few milliseconds later, it inhibits the ability to speak because an individual is unable to listen and speak simultaneously. Thus, a wired connection would make for instant amplification of voice, eliminating any possibility for feedback or delay.

This invention is novel in a number of aspects, the most obvious being the ability to speak and have voice heard clearly while still wearing a face covering. The ability to speak in a mask is stifled when a mask is worn, but with a speaker and microphone system the voice can be broadcast with complete understanding. The invention also incentivizes the user to keep the mask covering the mouth. Commonly people who are wearing masks become frustrated when they cannot be heard, causing them to pull down their mask and spread molecules through speech. The microphone and speaker system eliminates the need for pulling down one's mask since their speech can be heard regularly. Another novel aspect of the invention is its ability to be installed on any mask; due to the two-part system, the user can clamp the apparatus onto separate masks instead of needing to buy a singular mask system that broadcasts voice. The
ability to install the system onto any mask allows for the user a cleaner experience since the apparatus can be rotated between several different masks, cleaning or discarding those that are not currently in use.

At this point in the pandemic, many individuals have a "mask of choice." By allowing the "Ampli-Mask" to be attached on any mask, it will incentivize people to wear their favorite masks with an attachment that may be painted as futuristic, or even cool. If something is viewed as "cool," younger generations may have more of an incentive to wear their masks, furthering protection for the people of the United States. The "Ampli-Mask" will ultimately be used to increase communication while keeping all parties involved safe.

PROGRESS

I have already begun attracting investors for the "Ampli-Mask," and I am in possession of a working prototype that consists of only the microphone and speaker (pictures and videos attached in the schematics). Since it is just an attachment, it should have a very wide appeal. Its ability to be attached onto virtually any mask allows for a proper fit regardless of probable barriers (glasses, facial hair, disabilities, etc.). The wire can be looped below, above, or to the side of the mask, so it is up to the user to wear it as they see fit. The materials used for the mask
can also be easily interchangeable; biodegradable materials can be adopted to allow for a more sustainable creation, but it may make the object more expensive. I estimate the price point as it stands (with ABS plastic) is somewhere in the neighborhood of $35, more or less given materials and production.

I came up with this invention in a remote class titled "Great Inventions that Matter" taught by Professor Shan Wang at Stanford University. This was the first class I ever took at Stanford, and the final project was to "patent" an invention. My final project was the Ampli-Mask that you see here.

I found an investor who was interested in the idea who linked me to a production company (Shiningway Global Sourcing). Shiningway Sourcing created the prototype I present based off my schematics, and I am pleased with the results.

We are in the midst of creating a second prototype with ABS plastic and a clip to hold the mask in place. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken much from me; I haven't seen my grandparents in over a year, I didn't get to graduate, and I am yet to live on the campus of my university, but it has been wonderful working on this project in between class. I hope I can add something to the fight against COVID with the "Ampli-Mask."

SCHEMATICS

schematic-01

Below is a link to a dropbox containing pictures and videos of the initial Ampli-Mask prototype that Shining Way Sourcing, ltd. has created according to my design. The prototypes you see have been altered to fit a more realistic design.

The link also contains the original patent I created for the Stanford class ("Ampli-Mask Patent Final Draft.pdf"). This patent has not been filed, but I intend to submit a revised version of this patent with the earnings from this contest:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/q6gpov6rtt8ismu/AADc2Z40LrLkAodEj35mZH8qa?dl=0

CONTACT

If you have any questions regarding the design or investment, please contact me at calvin3@stanford.edu, or at 1-310-871-2726.

Thank you!