As It Happens

This voice-activated LED mask simulates facial expressions for talking, smiling

Tyler Glaiel says the light-up mask he invented is "very impractical and not very comfortable" — but it looks really cool. 

The light board inside the mask is sound activated and moves along with the wearer's voice

Tyler Glaiel, a California programmer and game designer, made this light-up COVID-19 mask that simulates talking and smiling. (Tyler Glaiel/Medium )

Tyler Glaiel says the light-up mask he invented is "very impractical and not very comfortable" — but it looks really cool. 

The California programmer and game designer has created a sound-activated LED face mask that lights up in the shape of a mouth that moves as you speak. And it can simulate a smile, too. 

"It's not something that I want to wear regularly. Like, sometimes I just want to go into the store and buy my stuff and leave," Glaiel told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"But the one time that I wore it out just solely to show off the mask, I was getting a lot of reactions from it."

This voice-activated LED face mask simulates facial expressions

1 year ago
California programmer Tyler Glaiel demonstrates his new LED face mask that lights up in the shape of his mouth. 0:14

Like many inventions that have sprung up over the last few months, the light-up mask was born from boredom. 

"I was just, you know, bored in quarantine like everyone else and I …  had the idea for a mask like this, and was just curious if one existed," he said. 

In his research, he came across masks with scrolling text, masks with permanent smiles etched onto them, masks that open and close to allow for eating and drinking, and masks with clear windows for people who are deaf or hard of hearing

But nothing that could actively emote.

So he set about designing one of his own. The final product uses a sound-activated LED board with low sensitivity settings so it registers the wearer's voice, while filtering out environmental noise.

If you speak with the mask on, a little circular mouth will open and close. The louder you speak, the wider the LED mouth opens. 

And if you want to smile, you just make a little popping noise with your mouth. Clicking your tongue works too.

"You could be making any face you want underneath the mask. You could be sticking out your tongue. But if you make that popping noise at all, people will think you're smiling," Glaiel said.

The mask uses an LED panel that responds to sound. (Tyler Glaiel/Medium )

Since he shared his creation online, Glaiel says people have been reaching out to him to ask where they can get a light-up mask of their own. But so far, he only has one and isn't currently manufacturing more.

"Enough people have requested the ability to purchase them that it's worth looking into," he said. "But no guarantees yet."

In the meantime, if you're up for a challenge, Glaiel has posted detailed instructions online for building a light-up mask at home, including links to all the necessary materials. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Tayo Bero. 


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