One widely-disliked part of wearing a face mask is the inability to see the lower half of a person's face. Many designs have come up with ideas to counteract this, be it a mask with an actual picture of your (or someone else's) mouth printed on to the fabric, or a see-through panel to allow visual access. But how about a more high-tech solution?
A brilliantly clever voice-activated mask has been invented by an indie game maker. Currently in the crowdfunding stages, the mask uses LED lights to convey emotion or words. If the mask becomes available to buy, we may have to add it to our pick of the best face masks for its innovation alone.
Called the JabberMask, and tagged as 'the mask that smiles', the LED lights change based on how the mouth is moving, with simple physical commands like popping the lips displaying simple words, emojis or smiles. Most authentically though, the mouth can also move in time with the mouth of the user, emulating the physical action of the lips underneath. The (seriously amusing) video below takes you through the design process and shows how it looks in reality.
Creator Tyler Glaiel's project started as a video introducing the product as a fun idea, with no plans to bring it to market – until the video went viral. Now, he's raising funds on Kickstarter (opens in new tab) to introduce masks with different capabilities, at different price points.
The Lite is the basic model, using a 6x6 LED grid and displaying a moving mouth and smile, powered by AAA batteries. Next up is the Deluxe, with an 8x8 grid and rechargeable battery. The top-level Pro adds emoji support, programmable through an iOS and Android app.
As shown in the image below, the LED lights could show hearts, emojis, mouth expressions and movements. The mask itself is made of cotton, which can be removed from the electronic panel and washed.
The JabberMask is buckets of fun – and the LED lights manage to convey some real warmth and personality, which is what can be lacking when people's mouths are covered up. However, the mask would also be a beacon advertising your emotional state in a more obvious way than your actual mouth does (because, y'know, it's made of lights). You'd have to practise keeping your mouth still in all circumstances if you're not up for that. Plus, a slight shiver of creepiness is invoked when imagining being surrounded by people wearing them. But that could all be part of the fun.
We can definitely imagine this as an evening option for people out socialising, but the masks would also raise a smile from those you encounter in the supermarket. Not that anyone would be able to see those smiles, of course.
For more mask options, see how to make a face mask, and where to buy face masks for kids.