Wynd’s air purifier has broad ambitions and a short reach

The Wynd smart air purifier is
designed to create “bubbles” of fresh air — small, one-person
respites from pollution, allergens and other detrimental
particles floating in the ether. It feels almost dystopian, a
world in which we’re required to arm ourselves against the air
around us, but the product clearly struck a nerve, with more
than 3,400 supporters backing the project to the tune of
$604,792, late last year.

What’s most compelling about the product is where it goes
beyond a simple air purification offering. There are a million
of those on the market already, and a single-serving,
water-bottle-sized system can only do so much. By connecting
Wynd to a mobile device, however, the company is able to offer
some interesting insights into the purifier itself, as well as
the world around us from which it’s ultimately designed to
protect us.

Making bubbles

The Wynd system is comprised of two key parts: the primary air
purifier and a small monitor that slots into the rear of the
device. The piece is removable and can be clipped onto articles
of clothing, offering up insight into air quality on the go. In
a sense, the system is too distinct pieces that serve separate
but related functions.

It’s a pretty clever design, and the startup clearly put a lot
of work into packing as much functionality into as small a form
factor as possible. The resulting package is conical, with a
top that flares out.

This bit houses a front-facing fan inside a ring that lights up
when power is turned on and adjusts color based on air quality
readings. The system has an “Auto” setting, which changes the
speed of the fan based on the surrounding air, or you can just
change the airflow manually by twisting the top of the system.

The majority of the rest of the filter’s surface area is
covered in holes for air intake. The surrounding air passes
through a small, circular cloth filter before being blown out
the top, with around half of fine particles and 70 percent of
larger, coarse particles removed, according to the company’s
press materials. The back of the system can be twisted off and
removed for easy access to the filter and the rechargeable
battery that’s housed inside.

It’s mostly a pretty nice bit of industrial design, though
there are a couple of key spots where things fall short. The
kickstand, which makes it possible to angle the air output
toward your face, is a bit precarious and really only offers a
single position. The USB-C charging slot, meanwhile, is
positioned up front, which puts it in the way of the kickstand,
should you want to plug the system in while in use.

Really though, the biggest issue is the purifier’s size. The
idea of a portable air filter is fine, but in real-world use,
it’s ultimately not going to clean that much. Hence, the almost
objectivist notion of “bubbles” — small pockets that don’t
contain the harmful particulates of the air surrounding them.
Really what that means is, in order to get the most use out of
the thing, you’re going to have to point it directly at your
face. As such, the applications are pretty limited with the
hardware. You can stick it on your desk, for example, or on a
bedside dresser.

The company also uses the example of a stroller or car where it
has more impact as an enclosed space. If you’re looking to fill
up a full room, you can get a good system for under $200. I
swear by this Winix PlasmaWave, for example.
It’s $139 on Amazon right now — coincidentally the same price
as the Wynd. It doesn’t connect to my smartphone, but I’ve
woken up a lot fewer mornings with my eyes glued shut from
allergies since I picked it up.

On the move

Wynd has stepped up its game by tapping into two elements that
are all the rage in consumer electronics these days: wearables
and crowdsourced data mapping. Both of those pieces are
accomplished by the square sensor that slots into the bottom of
the device. When inside, it charges alongside the purifier, and
when removed, it’s roughly the size of a pink eraser.

There’s a button on the side that turns the sensor on, firing
up a big light up top that changes color based on the quality
of air it detects. Blue is good, and the closer you get to red,
the more you ought to consider investing in a surgical mask to
wear around in your daily life. On the bottom is a clip that
attaches to an article of clothing or a backpack strap.
However, here’s another place where the design leaves something
to be desired — it actually fell off a few times as I was
wearing it around the city.

The purpose of the sensor is twofold. The first part is
offering localized readings of air quality. I’m not really sure
what to do with that information, beyond, perhaps, going out of
my way to avoid certain areas, like, say, the subway stations,
which turn the light an upsetting shade of deep red.

The bigger picture should prove familiar to anyone who’s been
following hardware startups over the last few years. The
company intends to use the connected nodes to build a sort of
real-time map of air quality conditions — something that could
potentially prove useful in parts of the world where air
quality is a real ongoing health concern.

Though, in order for it to be a truly useful resource, it’s
going to take a lot more connected nodes deployed out in the

Fresh air

The app experience is useful and cleanly designed. It’ll let
you know how much charge the device has and when it’s time to
change the filter. The Air Bubbles section, meanwhile, maps out
all of the sensor readings, offering insight into the air
around you.

At $139, Wynd is priced similarly to much larger air purifiers
that service a lot more volume than what’s just blowing into
your face. The sensor, on the other hand, is really the most
compelling and useful feature, offering some insight into
what’s going on in the world around you. But until Wynd creates
an industrial-size purifier, what you’ll actually be doing
about it will be a fair bit more difficult.

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Wynd’s air purifier has broad ambitions and a short reach

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