We’re finally reaching the point when businesses are starting to reopen after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. But if you’re going out and about, you should probably still be wearing a face mask and maintaining at least six feet of distance from other people. Nobody wants to wear a face mask — they’re uncomfortable and, frankly, ugly. To improve your fashion you can purchase masks that look a bit less like what your dentist wears, or you can follow Dr H’s lead and outfit your face mask with an E Ink display to add a bit of personality.
The goal of Dr H’s work is to put the “face” in “face mask.” Without spending too much time on evolutionary psychology, it’s well-known that humans automatically look for faces at all times. Studies have shown that if there is a rudimentary mouth and eyes — even represented as simple lines — you will instantly recognize it as a face. A face mask and protective eyewear obscure the wearer’s facial features and dehumanize them to some extent. By adding a screen to your face mask, you can display a mouth and resemble a human again. On a less serious note, you can have fun with it and show vampire fangs or a dog’s snout.
The two key components for this project are a Raspberry Pi Zero (or Zero W) and an E Ink display. Dr H used a WaveShare Flexible 2.9” ePaper Display with a WaveShare ePaper Display Driver HAT. A Pimoroni Button Shim adds controls and power comes from a Pimoroni Zero LiPo Shim paired with a LiPo battery. The idea is to attach the display to the outside of the face mask without compromising its ability to protect you and others. You can then load the Raspberry Pi up with whatever images you want to display. Those electronic components will obviously add a lot of weight and make your face mask less comfortable to wear, but that might be worth it to bring a bit of levity into this difficult situation we’re in.