Protect yourself from coronavirus with a mask that looks like your face

The Face ID-compatible mask is supposed to be so accurate you can unlock your phone with it.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
2 min read

An N95 mask with flair.

Danielle Baskin

It's hard to stand out in a crowd when everyone's wearing the same bone-white N95 protective facial mask. That could change if one San Francisco designer follows through on her idea to custom-print the respirator masks with images of wearers' faces.

The more personalized mask, perfectly named Resting Risk Face, would make you easily recognizable among the anonymous global mask-wearing throngs trying to stay safe from the novel coronavirus that leads to the illness COVID-19. It would, its creator says, also let you unlock your device with your visage without having to lower your mask and breathe in offending germs.

Danielle Baskin

"Be protective and be recognized," reads the website for the product. "It's so easy."

If it sounds like a joke, Danielle Baskin, the designer and visual artist behind the concept, acknowledges the dystopian humor. Still, she's seen genuine interest in her idea, with more than 1,000 people currently on the waiting list to buy one.

"People have referenced Black Mirror dozens of times, but they still want one," she tells me. "To another percentage of people, these are a whimsical way to cheer sick people up."

The masks cost $40 a pop (about £30 AU$60), though there's no official launch date. Baskin insists she doesn't plan to produce them until the worldwide mask shortage ends. She's currently testing the reliability of the facial recognition across devices.

Other quirky products from Baskin include a battery pack that looks like a Pokeball and a digital graveyard for beloved URLs you've let expire.

To get a Resting Risk Mask, you simply need to upload an image of your face via web app. Baskin's service would map the image of your face onto the mask's curved surface without distortion. You'd preview a digital version of your Resting Risk Face, and once you approve, you're ready to start walking around looking like a piece of performance art.

"The masks are uncanny and awkward, especially if people mix and match faces," Baskin says. "I could sell anti-surveillance variety packs. Best friends can swap faces. N95s are kind of boring and dehumanizing as they are and humans will increasingly need them, for fires and viruses. The product just sells itself."

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Baskin isn't the only artist rethinking masks in the face the coronavirus.

As Dezeen reports, Max Siedentopf, a designer based in London, produced a series of absurdist portraits of people covering their faces with everyday items like running shoes and bras. He calls his series How-To Survive A Deadly Global Virus.

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Originally published Feb. 17