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September 7, 2017

Amazing (and slightly creepy) robotic mask changes in response to your emotions

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Looking for an awesome Halloween costume that will appeal to your inner tech geek? This mask should do the trick.

Do you remember the character Rorschach in Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel, Watchmen? For those who have never read it (and you totally, 100 percent need to), he is a vigilante whose ink blot test style mask changes throughout the story, often as a way of cluing you in on his emotions at the time. Presumably, with a similar goal in mind, a team of designers from London’s Bartlett School of Architecture created a somewhat similar mask — courtesy of a combination of 3D printing and Harvard University’s Soft Robotics Toolkit.

The soft silicone mask changes its pattern depending on the expression made by its wearer. It does this using a MyoWare Muscle Sensor, an Arduino-powered, all-in-one electromyography (EMG) sensor, which measures the activity of muscles and then outputs a signal which triggers a response. In this case, it means that a smile, frown, or other facial contortion causes the mask to inject or extract colored liquid through special capillaries, resulting in a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of colorful designs.

Unless you are planning to take to the streets as a comic book vigilante, there is probably no practical use for a mask such as this, of course, but it is definitely a unique idea and application of some pretty cool technology. Generously, the students behind it — Sirou Peng, Adi Meyer, and Silvia Rueda — have made some of the project’s details available to everyone online so you can build your own. In addition to a 3D printer, Arduino Uno board, and other components, you need special software for the photogrammetry 3D-scanning process and digital sculpting — all of which is detailed in the associated blog post.

Right now, the instructions are still fairly limited, although co-creator Meyer told Digital Trends that the team is in the process of developing a short technical film that will share more details concerning the project. This is planned for release later this month.

With 55 days to go until Halloween, maybe now is the time to get thinking about this year’s trick or treat costume. Particularly if you live in an area populated by engineers and designers, we think this mask would be a hit!

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