Facebook’s corporate mission is to “bring the world closer together,” but as the coronavirus continues to endanger lives around the world, one of the company’s designers has come up with a novel tool to keep people a little further apart. Operating under her fashion-technology brand Lumen Couture, Oculus design manager Chelsea Klukas has introduced a face mask that can animate short messages or graphics on a large screen, most notably enabling wearers to remind others to maintain a six-foot gap for social distancing.
Available for preorder at $90 and scheduled to ship in early May or possibly sooner, the LED Matrix Face Mask combines a relatively low-resolution but bright 512-pixel LED display with a USB-chargeable battery and washable cotton/mesh face mask. Using an Android or iOS app, you can draw a picture, write text, or use a preset for the mask, which lasts for 3-4 hours per charge, enough for a visit to the supermarket and/or walk to or from your home.
The good news is that the black mask is functional and certain to draw attention — moreover, Klukas is offering a DIY YouTube guide to making your own if you don’t want to pay $90, proceeds from which will be shared with WHO’s COVID-19 Response Fund. On the other hand, the mask is “not tested for medical efficiency nor does it make claims for medical protection,” so it’s being offered “at your own risk.”
While that’s not surprising, you might want to consider it more of a novelty than something to depend on for your health. If you want to have fun with it, the mask can also display an equalizer that responds to your music or sounds from your phone.
Lumen Couture has been creating LED-based clothes for years, selling programmable belts, shirts, skirts, and chokers, as well as renting costumes for events and commercial use. While the tech wearables category is saturated with gimmicks, the timing of this mask’s release may make it the best demonstration yet of how outward-facing displays can benefit both wearers and people around them.