There was a whole lot of very interesting health and fitness technology around at the IFA 2023 conference. The usual stuff like smartwatches, treadmills and the best electric bikes rubbed shoulders with a little more esoteric items such as virtual jump ropes (with no actual ropes), digital wellness tools like smart scales and rings, and a lot of massage tech. Everywhere I looked in the Digital Health hall, I could see vibrating chairs, the best massage guns, and racks upon racks of gadgets that looked suspiciously like VR headsets.
These visors are actually eye massagers, and there were a bunch of them around the conference this year. Using a combination of temperature, air pressure and physical pressure, they aim to relax the muscles in your face and moisten your eyes so that your eyes are refreshed after a long day of looking at screens.
Companies like Xiaomi, Renpho, Therabody and others are getting in on the category, assuming that we’re now so glued to our screens that we need an electronic virtual, vibrating blindfold to physically separate us from our computers and phones.
It’s a newer development in massage tech, and I’m wondering whether it’ll catch on – so I duly tried a few, strapping these things onto my face and trying to relax while standing in a packed convention hall.
The first one I tried was the Yumnai Eye Massager Pro, from a subsidiary of Xiaomi. It was a hard plastic lens with pinholes in the visor so you could "see out and read a book while it works" according to the enthusiastic rep. Inside the device was a series of small nodes which pummel your brow and cheeks as you sit or lie there, while air flows towards your eyes.
This was awful. The device had no cushioning for your face, so the hard plastic dug painfully into the bridge of my nose. I felt the rep was very much exaggerating about being able to see out through these tiny holes: you get a vague impression of what’s going on, but the effect is more of an eclipse pinhole lens than a fencer’s mask. I certainly wouldn’t get lost in a book like that. Then I turned the machine on, and things really went downhill: the nodes felt like I was being thumped by gnomes, while the air, not temperature controlled in the slightest, felt like it was actually drying my eyes rather than moistening them. I made my excuses and left the booth, ironically more stressed than I arrived.
But I didn’t give up, I tried a selection of others, making my way to the Renpho stand. The Eyeris Spa was a simple warming or cooling device, that lies on your eyes, a bit like a rechargeable compress. Cooling can tighten the skin around your eyes, reducing bags and wrinkles, while warming improves blood flow and can help manage inflammation. This was fine, although a small towel from the fridge could probably accomplish the same thing.
Moving on to the other Renpho products, the full-fledged eye massager headsets, I tried Renpho’s most advanced model available – the Eyeris Smart. The Eyeris Smart is a cushioned face massager using physical pressure and a combination of warm and cool air currents. In-built Bluetooth speakers allow you to play your own music, while you can use the corresponding app to customize your own 30-minute massage routine.
Immediately when I put it on, it felt a lot more comfortable than either of the first two. I couldn’t see out of it, which felt a little intimidating on the packed convention floor, but once the massage function started I stopped caring. The pressure within the cushions gradually tightened and loosed on my forehead and cheekbones, and the gentle air jets were cool. In the 30 seconds I wore it, I swear my shoulders dropped an inch or two. I was very impressed.
Renpho’s Eyeris products start from around $60 / £50 / AU$90, with the top-end Eyeris Smart available for $129.99 (around £100, or AU$200). Out of all the crazy face-massaging tech I tried at IFA, it was the only product that could do the seemingly impossible and help me relax in front of a packed convention hall.
On a Friday night or Sunday afternoon, after a hard week, you could do a lot worse than donning an Eyeris for a 20-minute destress session. It was surprising, innovative and genuinely good, so we had no problem recommending it for one of this year’s IFA awards.