Since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we have — thankfully — seen the majority of the population wisely, and proudly, chosen to pick up and don the humble face mask as our primary tool in trying to combat the spread of this virus.
Here's to everyone doing their part, by simply wearing a mask.Thank you!
From the humble, disposable blue and white "surgical N95" style — that we sometimes unfortunately are starting to see litter some streets — to the slightly clunkier Covidisor (shown above), and every style in-between, we can safely say that any mask is better than no mask.
To this end, there has been a movement of personal expression, with many people choosing to embrace fabric masks that can be better fitted and further customized by the wearer.
For many, this is a fancy fabric pattern, with flashes of color, or even patches of paisley print helping to filter out potentially virulent particles.
For us hardware heads however, it seems fitting that perhaps we'd have... well, some hardware on our heads!
Within weeks of mask wearing becoming the social norm, the DIYers were making moves to show our own colorful mask adaptations — but in place of paisley print, most of us turned to pixels packed onto flexible FPC boards — strips of DotStars or NeoPixels flashing out patterns ranging from plasma swathes, to precautionary messages.
With pre-orders placed on the Lumen Couture website soon fulfilled with production stock — it's been a popular concept to say the least!
This rather luxurious, insanely luminous, face mask is a flexible panel of LEDs, driven by a Lattice Semiconductor iCE40 FPGA, and laid out as an isometric grid. This key design feature not only adds a bit of extra flexibility to the face mask, enabling it to conform more easily to wearers face, but also allows for some extra breathing space (literally)!
The isometric grid makes space in the LED matrix for hexagonal air holes in between the LEDs, in order to let air pass through the LED panel, and then through a secondary, medical grade mask that is worn underneath.
The thing is, when an idea like this gets rolling, well, we as makers look towards all the hardware on our horizon, including perhaps "off label" use of the litany of flexible LED matrix panels available to be ordered to specific layouts, provided your production quantities provide for it.
Lumen Couture volleyed back, and dropped the simply phenomenal full-face pixel panel mask.
Formed from a custom flexible panel of LED pixels, this HUB-75E-esqe hardware was, until last week, the state the art in pixel based personal protective equipment. This game moves fast.
Royole is a company that are focused on the design and manufacture of ultra-thin, super flexible AMOLED displays.
We've seen flexible OLED screens before, and even flexible ePaper displays, but Royole have taken this technology to a new level.
Seen above, their take on the fashion accessory for 2021 was teased to us by @CHA2trico over on Twitter,and at first, you would be forgiven for thinking this might be some CGI trickery.
It's real, it's ridiculously cool, and it's a demonstrator of what the Royole technology is capable of — even if a somewhat limited one, in light of just how impressive the Royole technology is!
With a panel thickness of 0.1mm — that's right, 1/10th of a millimeter! — this AMOLED panel technology truly is almost toilet paper thin.
Check out this more technically focused demonstrator, showing it flapping about in response to air movements!
No, It's not just a side-lit, static-imaged printed bit of plastic, this is a full AMOLED touchscreen, as we can see with hints of an underlying Android interface showing through on this demonstration platform.
This combination of ultra-thin display technology, fused with a similarly slimline touch sensitive layer means that we surely can expect to see garment based GUIs within mere years.
We've seen the technology demonstrators above, that you'd likely have seen at the trade shows this year, had the industry not shifted to working from home where possible. But Royole is on a roll.
Shown below are a few of the products that Royole is listing in their wearable offerings — a ultra-thin AMOLED T-Shirt, and a similarly thin AMOLED top hat.
This is technology that is very much beyond proof-of-concept, and rapidly advancing. For those crying "phooey, these graphical garments have got to be green-screen trickery!"
Well, Royole is either royally talented at Final Cut Pro, or these products are actually production proven. I'm leaning towards the latter.