The deadly coronavirus is a global health emergency and has claimed more than 1,800 lives in mainland China and infected over 73,000 others worldwide. The virus, codenamed COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation, shares the same symptoms as the flu and special tests are required for diagnosis, which means anyone could be infected.
In order to avoid being infected, many people, especially those living in heavily populated regions, have started queuing up to purchase surgical masks and the spike in demand has even led to worldwide shortage of the masks.
While protective gear like masks might protect individuals from being infected, one of the drawbacks of using face masks is that it becomes difficult for some to use their smartphone if they have the face unlock feature set up on their device. Therefore, users have to remove their face masks to unlock their phone, putting them at risk of contracting the virus.
However, someone has come up with a clever solution to this problem: Printing your face on the masks so you unlock your phone while you wear them.
Danielle Baskin, a San Francisco-based artist, has started a website, FaceIDMarks.com, that sells N95 respirator masks with your face printed on them so you can unlock your smartphone without having to take the masks off. The idea appears to be a hit as minutes after Baskin tweeted about the service, she started receiving a ton of orders and requests.
"The product is becoming viral, unfortunately," she was quoted as saying by The Daily Dot. "Even though the website clearly reads as dystopian late-stage capitalism, over 100 people asked to be on the waitlist to get a mask when the product launches."
How does it work?
It's simple - You upload a picture of your face, pictures taken during daylight are recommended, on to the website, which then uses "computational mapping to convert your facial features into an image printed onto the surface of N95 surgical masks without distortion."
Next, you see a preview of how the mask will look on your face if you want to make any changes to the size or alignment. Once confirmed, your face is then printed on to the mask and elastic band is also matched with your skin tone. Each mask retails for $40 and although the masks are not yet available you can sign up to be notified when they launch.
Does it work with all facial recognition software?
Although, Baskin claims in her tweet that these masks can "work with facial recognition software," it remains to be known whether it works with all facial recognition software as not all face unlocking systems are the same.
Android devices use 2D face unlock, which is the kind of face unlock system that you can trick with a photo, so Baskin's masks might be able to fool the software. However, Apple phones are equipped with 3D face unlock, which it calls Face ID.
The Apple software maps the 3D layout of your face with the help of a sophisticated camera module while simultaneously checking for your attention (eyes open or closed) to unlock the device, so it might be harder to trick Apple phones or tablets with the face-printed masks.
However, there's a way around it. One way to bypass the problem is to add a secondary face to your iPhone or iPad in which you wear one of these customized N95 masks. You might fool the system into believing that's what your face looks like. Most of your face would not be covered by anything, including your eyes, and the system should work, at least in theory.