The idea of Narvalo started in 2018 during a project work on Smart Design at the University Politecnico di Milano, the idea was then incubated by Poli.Hub and Poli-factory, leading towards the product launch in June 2020. Narvalo is an augmented anti-pollution mask based on a hyper protective filter (ffp3), contained in a soft material to ensure a comfortable fit, and equipped with a respiratory valve to easily breath also while cycling or running. The mask would then be connected to an app, to measure levels of pollution, filter conditions and track other helpful breath-related data.
Once the team got to the first stable prototype in December 2019, they engaged oblo for a quick iteration with a community of potential users, to both test and refine the product, as well as collect learnings that could inform their go-to-market strategy.
The first step was to recruit a number of research participants covering different potential uses of the masks, from bikers to other types of commuters, of various age ranges and gender types. All the candidates were invited to a teasing event, in which we hosted a talk about the topic of air quality and protection, and introduced them to the new product and its features. All the participants were invited to subscribe to a closed Facebook group, where they could receive specific missions related to things to do or observe while using the mask, and post their photos, impressions, comments.
After a quick iteration of two weeks, we were able to download and analyse all the findings, leading to a definition of specific requirements to consider in the product refinement and marketing strategy. At the same time, a final survey closed the iteration, gaining user input on specific aspects such as distribution of the product or cost of the mask and its disposable filters.
Findings covered many levels, and have been used to improve the product prior to the official launch in June 2020. In particoular we discovered that the strap solution - used to keep the lace adjustable to different head sizes and needs - was actually problematic, in terms of fitting, and perceived as a cheap solution compared to other possibile alternatives. This led to a redesign of the lace solution to be more easily adjustable without any interference with the person hair or clothes. We also discovered that wearing that kind of mask is a sort of statement, as the mask covers almost the entire face and clearly expresses people's intention to protect themselves against the pollution and other issues related to breathing small particles. Finally, all the participants perceived a big difference in the days in which they were not wearing the mask: a tangible sign of the high level of protection and an incentive not to forget it at home, especially in the days with increased pollution levels.