Protecting ourselves and each other from the novel coronavirus is essential, of course, but walking out into a world full of covered faces does get a little dystopian after a while. Would it feel any better to you if we were all wearing “second faces” that prevented viral transmission without disguising who we are?
A new company called “Maskalike” makes it possible to do exactly that by printing photos onto reusable, non-medical-grade face masks. Created by San Francisco-based designer, inventor, and artist Danielle Baskin, the project lets you protect yourself while remaining recognizable and, theoretically at least, unlocking your phone using Face ID. You just upload your face using their web app, preview and tweak the image, and they’ll print the mask, even matching the elastic band to your skin tone. “Our masks are sure to make people around you do double-takes and have a brighter day,” reads the site.
Modeling her own mask, Baskin demonstrates that you can hardly tell she’s wearing it until you see her pull it down. The effect is slightly creepy, though the ability to see each other’s faces might be comforting for some people. However, the service also opens up the possibility of wearing other people’s faces.
Maskalike has already printed a run of masks featuring “Hide the Pain Harold” of popular meme fame, which has completely sold out, and nobody’s going to stop you from printing up pretty much any other face you like. Wish you had the lips of Angelina Jolie or the chiseled jawline of Henry Cavill? Go for it. Baskin also offers a “Getty Images” face mask, so if anyone takes a photo of you in public, they won’t be able to post it anywhere — an interesting security tactic for protestors.
If you need a little extra protection, Baskin also plans to sell custom-printed N95 “Face ID Masks.”
The Maskalike team explains that “after uploading your face, we use computational mapping to convert your facial features into an image made into a mask. Our printer uses inks made of natural dyes. It’s non-toxic and doesn’t affect breathability. You can use your mask for everyday life as a barrier for airborne particle droplets. Why? If you’re sick, wearing a mask makes it hard to use your biometric data to access your phone.”
“While some companies have been funded to work on technology that identifies medical mask-wearers, we created a less complicated version: printing your face on the mask itself. After research and tests, we developed a contoured version of our masks that’s compatible with depth sensors. You just need to set it as an additional face.”
The site says the idea “started as a joke,” but is now in active development. The masks are not quite ready to ship yet, but you can add yourself to the wait list to be notified when they are. If you know of a company that can either help with sewing or fulfillment “to meet the crazy high demand,” check out the site and send Baskin an email.