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The mask that smiles for you

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 6/10/2020 Diti Kohli
a man wearing glasses: Tyler Glaiel (above) created a mask with lights and electronics that smiles on command. © Tyler Glaiel Tyler Glaiel (above) created a mask with lights and electronics that smiles on command.

Tyler Glaiel, a native of Westfield, built an electronic mask that responds to the wearer’s voice — and smiles on command. A video of Glaiel sporting his creation, posted on May 25, has racked up more than 1.7 million views on Twitter (@tylerglaiel).

Incorporating 16 LED lights, a 9-volt battery, and a microphone, his invention loosely simulates the shape and movements of a mouth against the solid black cloth of a mask. When the wearer makes a popping sound, an electronic smile appears for two seconds.

Glaiel said he was inspired by the difficulties normal masks pose for communication and connection between wearers. “You lose all facial expressions from people,” he said. “So it can be hard to understand what people are saying without visual cues.”

A video game programmer by day, Glaiel started the mask project “for fun,” he said. Its first iteration in late April came with a bulky battery pack and a jumble of wires. But his second version is free of discombobulated parts and problems.

Now a Califorinia resident, Glaiel isn’t interested in forming a company or mass producing his creation. It’s mostly because the mask is not practical or in line with federal safety regulations — Glaiel said it’s heavy, uncomfortable, and generates heat.

Still, replies to Glaiel’s social media posts are flooded with users itching to buy the mask. “Some people would enjoy buying one of these as a novelty,” he said.

The creator has shared his written code on Github and penned a Medium post with instructions on how to construct the mask for those interested. He said it takes no more than a few hours and a handful of materials to make (though it does require a soldering kit).

Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.

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