SVA MFA Products of Design student Cathy Tung has created Mousk—a digital product, platform, and brand that addresses the facial expression and nuance forced by the pandemic.
"The face is one of the most important places on the body to look at for social information"
The designer first began envisioning the mask itself and its accompanying mobile app. "With a digital screen embedded in the front of the mask, Mousk allows users to upload and display images of lips, words, emojis, and more to convey their expressions," Tung writes of the project.
Based on the usability testing of her digital prototype, Tung started to think about the opportunities in targeting multiple users. "What if users could customize the color of their lipsticks? What if that lipstick could be patterned—or even animated—customized for different occasions?" Further, Tung asked, "What if users could upload emoji or hand-writing to make communication in a way that doesn't mimic the mouth at all?"
"I might smile slightly to indicate humor or 'just kidding', for example, but if you can't see my mouth, you won't get that layer of communication."
"No expression = No nuance Thinking more expansively about a "Smart Mask", Tung includes a microphone in the mask to capture the intonation and emotions of its wearer, providing a dashboard at the end of the day or week for how they "actually sound."
Tung explains: "When we remove facial expressions, so much nuance is removed. I might smile slightly to indicate humor or 'just kidding', for example, but if you can't see my mouth, you won't get that layer of communication." Employing AI, users could choose display screens that either complement or counterbalance these factors—"confident" "easygoing" and "aggressive" are three examples she uses—with the marketing pitch, "connect how you talk to who you are. Sync your mask data to understand yourself more!"