There’s no getting around it — for the foreseeable future, we’ll likely be wearing face masks whenever we go out. Guidelines vary, of course, but many enclosed establishments require face masks to enter, even if your state or country doesn’t strictly require them in public. Along with avoiding crowds and regular hand-washing, face masks are pretty effective at controlling the spread of coronavirus. It’s a mild inconvenience, at worst, for a greater good — and since this is our reality right now, what can we do to make face coverings better?
All over, people have been making masks more comfortable, durable, effective, and stylish. Here are some of the most interesting and innovative mask designs out on the street today.
- Customizable LED masks to add personality and flair
Buy it or DIY it, face masks with LED displays can certainly be eye-catching. These masks, made with flexible LED matrices, can be programmed to light up in pretty much any pattern you can imagine and are easy to control. One DIY guide, by game designer Tyler Glaiel, offers voice-activated LEDs that can be programmed to move along with your lips behind the mask — you can even smile by making a “pop” sound. The display can be programmed to show messages, or just animate in colorful patterns. It looks cool too.
- 3D-printed masks provide the exact right fit
The Nuo 3D mask project, which was recently fully backed on Indiegogo, tailors a mask to each wearer’s face with a little AI help. The mask is made to fit snugly for both comfort and protection. However, it is also designed to have a replaceable N95 filter that filtrates over 98% of bacteria. Using a smart measurement guide, users will generate their measurements, and then a bespoke mask will be 3D printed and shipped right to your door.
- Reusable silicone masks offer breathability without sacrificing protection
A kitchen accessories company has also thrown its hat in the mask-making ring. GIR has partially shifted its production line to produce reusable silicone masks. Partially perforated, the masks are designed to be comfortable to breathe in, while also using a filter fitted to the mask to filtrate small particles. The company offers multiple colors of these medical-grade silicone masks and has started an initiative to donate bulk orders to frontline workers and vulnerable communities.
- Don’t want to obscure your face? Have it printed on a mask
Prototypes of masks printed with the wearer’s facial features have turned out a little uncanny, but improvements have allowed the printed picture to be more closely mapped to the person’s face. Merely upload a photo, tweak the digital proof to fix alignment issues, and your face will be printed onto an N95 mask and shipped. The elastic band is also matched to your skin tone. While your phone still won’t recognize you, it’ll make it easier for the people around you. Kind of scary, in a way.
- Remote-controlled masks allow you to eat and drink without taking them off
Restaurants have started to reopen seating, but it can still be difficult to eat in public while keeping yourself and others protected. Inventors in Israel decided to address the issue by designing a mask that opens and closes at the squeeze of a lever, or even automatically when a fork is near the mask, and close again once the food is safely in your mouth. Currently a prototype, the company plans to start manufacturing the masks within the next few months. Personally, I think this is a bit ridiculous looking. However, a 50% duty cycle does have a 50% effective rate. Better than nothing.