The death toll of the coronavirus virus, now officially named COVID-19, has reached 1,868, as 98 more people died while the total number of confirmed cases jumped to 72,436.
For ordinary citizens, the most common preventive measure people can take themselves is a face mask against the disease which is mostly transmittable through air and droplets. Seen as the most easy method people could take, even cats in China have started sporting face masks.
In the midst of this, comes a company which proposes to make face masks with the mask being the rest of the face which its covering. Sound like something from the future or out of an episode of Black Mirror? It's real.
San Francisco artist, Danielle Baskin, came up with the idea based on the occurrence that a face mask effectively blocks the face, making things like facial recognition in phones ineffective. Essentially, you would have to take off your mask every time you wanted to unlock your phone with a face.
The tagline on the website also spells the same: "Unlock your devices with a surgical mask that looks just like you."
Speaking to News18, she shares how she was discussing "how ineffective masks were to prevent yourself from getting a virus. Someone mentioned that masks would also interfere with facial recognition, and I said it would be easy to just print a mask with a face on it."
The thought soon became reality as Baskin specializes in printing techniques for curved surfaces. Some of her other companies involve the process, so the idea seemed "very obvious" to her. "I also love to create dystopian humor, so I made a landing page spontaneously," she said.
Posting a thread on Twitter, she shared how these masks could be a possibility.
Made this service that prints your face on an N95 mask, so you can protect people from viral epidemics while still being able to unlock your phone.— Danielle Baskin (@djbaskin) February 15, 2020
With clarifications, because the post soon had many responses, going viral for its unique nature.
To everyone asking: I'm testing the facial recognition reliability across devices. But what if you just want to be recognized by your friends?— Danielle Baskin (@djbaskin) February 16, 2020
To all those inquiring: No, I don't have plans to produce these *during* the global mask shortage. There's a waitlist and no launch date.— Danielle Baskin (@djbaskin) February 16, 2020
Does anyone have a recommendation on how someone eager to drop cash on a novelty mask can help? An organization that donates supplies?
She also explained how else it could be used, perhaps upping the number of people who wear face masks.
Other uses for selfie masks that folks have mentioned, besides unlocking your phone.— Danielle Baskin (@djbaskin) February 16, 2020
- Anti-surveillance tech (if using a different face)
- Adds whimsy to the sterility of hospitals
- If you're sick (or breathing smoke), you might be more likely to wear a mask if it looks "cool"
While the masks aren't ready yet, the site is up, and as the tweet went viral, over 600 people have already signed up for the waitlist to get one.
"My website seems like a joke, but I've received messages from folks who work in hospitals or doctor's offices saying that this would be really useful to cheer up patients. People are also saying it would be useful to identify friends in a crowd, if things get to the point where everyone is wearing a faceless mask," she explains.
But the process to actually make it is a little more than just printing. "I have to do more R&D and develop a printing method that's fast. Then I'd build a web app so you could visualize and align your face on the face mask before it's printed. There's also creative applications for this. Maybe you can order someone else's face, and the parameters around that," she explains.
While its uncertain when the masks will be launched, we're certainly excited to see what the future holds. The future, which is happening right now.