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Portland startup creates new breathing mask

AO Air claims its masks are 50 times better than the leading mask.

PORTLAND, Ore. — It seems almost every night we see images of people wearing face masks to protect themselves from viruses or from polluted air.

Now a Portland-based startup has developed a new kind of breathing mask that claims to perform 50 times better than the leading mask.

It looks like goggles for your mouth. But the company, Ao Air, believes it's developed the breathing mask of the future.

That's because unlike your more standard disposable masks, the personal air purifiers don't need a seal because the pressure difference between the inside and outside air naturally keeps the polluted air out.

"Whatever is in the air is being drawn in, the moment it enters the chamber it's filtered in multiple stages at a nano-level, by the time the air hits the fans we've captured 99.8% of the really nasty small pollutants," explained Mikal Peveto, head of Ao Air U.S.

While the company designed the masks for the purpose of filtering out pollution like smog or smoke, its next step is to create a system that filters out viruses as well.

"This would certainly far exceed what they're wearing today for protection, but it wasn't designed for that," said Peveto. "Over time we'll get into that space and are confident we'll have that solution."

Not only does the mask clean the air you breathe, it lets you know just how dirty the air is around you. It connects to a mobile app on your phone where you can see all that information.

The current mask costs $350.

The company's already taking pre-orders with deliveries starting in August.

And so far business has been good.

"In the places where people are wearing masks they love it," said Peveto. "The reaction has been fantastic."

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