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It’s not easy to put on a happy face, or any face, really, during a pandemic in which face masks and frowns are kind of the norm. But a Seattle company is helping people smile with a product that combines selfies and tech and COVID-19 safety.
FriendlyFace is the work of digital designers and developers based in West Seattle, working out of a studio called Lab. The founders were frustrated by not being able to see people’s faces in public spaces and they started experimenting with prototypes for a printed face mask back in May. The designs show a photographic representation of what lies beneath a user’s typical cotton face mask.
Co-founder and CEO Ash Bhoopathy said that when he wore a mask to Costco for the first time, dozens of people laughed and and asked where they could get one.
By late October, FriendlyFace had a web site built and an app and started rolling with orders in November after MSNBC’s Ali Velshi tweeted an image of himself wearing one.
“Our goal is to deliver that same experience that I had back at the store when I first wore it around,” Bhoopathy said. “People laughed, smiled (smized), and thought it was awesome. It delivered happiness, and I think that levity is what we need right now after a really tough year.”
While other companies promise to put your face on a face mask — including some on Amazon — FriendlyFace says it uses sophisticated computer vision tech to scale the mouth properly, crop and rotate. Bhoopathy said that a customizable pattern around the border of the face on each mask is meant to alleviate concerns about the “uncanny valley” effect.
FriendlyFace masks are printed and assembled in Seattle. They sell for $29 and each order comes with a laundry bag, ear saver, cord locks, and two charcoal filters. The company also sells reversible gaiters for $49. And they’re donating $1 from every order to the National Resources Defence Council.
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News – Be your selfie: Seattle mask makers FriendlyFace design a way to bring smiles during the pandemic