As the pandemic presses on, wearing a face mask has become a way of life. We are no longer able to enter supermarkets and transport without wearing one. For a whole year now, the pandemic has changed life as we once knew it, and so, new developments have to be made to help overcome these new and challenging obstacles we are facing.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, and now understanding the nature of the virus, face coverings have been strongly advanced for the whole world. Since it’s a global issue, the supply and demand for face masks have risen to new heights.
The graph below paints a vivid picture of how quickly and intensely the demands for masks have risen, comparing figures from 2019 to 2020.
Along with the number of masks in circulation, we have also been faced with some other difficulties that come from wearing face masks. For example, we are no longer able to use technology like facial recognition on our smartphones as they cannot detect our facial features.
However, Apple’s next update to its iOS operating system will allow users to use their faces to unlock their devices while wearing a mask. However, there is a caveat.
Currently, users who like to use Face ID with a mask on are asked to type in their passcode for added security as the software can not pick up the whole face. This can be annoying, especially when you need to quickly access information on your device.
However, with the latest update AND Apple’s most recent smartwatch, users will be able to use the smartwatch as an added level of security to help unlock their phones while wearing a mask. The beta version of this update is being rolled out slowly. The update will unlock only the handset and activate useful apps such as Apple Pay.
As we advance, there could be some other avenues that Face ID can look into, including functionalities such as iris scanners that take note of characteristics of the iris and unlock the phone. Although this may seem far-fetched, we are now close to automotive cars, so anything is possible. Samsung did have a dig at using this technology in their Galaxy S8 handset in 2017; however, a hacker proved the software to be unsuccessful by unlocking the handset with a printout of an iris.
Issues with wearing masks
Although they help reduce the spread of the virus, there are some side effects to wearing masks that we may not have considered. There are some apparent causes such as feeling uncomfortable and irritation, as well as fogging up glasses which prevent people from wearing them as indicated in the graph below. However, there are genuine drawbacks to wearing face masks for some.
For those who are partially deaf, lip-reading was a way of life. Before the pandemic, they were able to read lips and understand what was being said in conversations. Unfortunately, as many are now wearing face masks, it is increasingly difficult for them to understand what is being said.
Much effort is being made to produce masks with clear visors on them, which show the lower portion of faces to help individuals with hearing impairments. However, they have not been made official or even widely available, which means the issue still stands.
Wearing face masks also has a broader effect on communication as a whole. Many can not hear when someone is talking through a mask. They also make reading facial expressions very hard, creating problems and misunderstandings. This is true for children, and especially in school settings, younger children use facial expressions to help them understand right from wrong. Covering large portions of faces means they cannot distinguish between their actions thoroughly.
Phycologists have claimed that as humans, we tend to process whole faces rather than focusing on individual features, and so, an expression is a way of communicating emotions and feelings. which is something the pandemic is making difficult
Considering all the factors, although we understand that face masks are essential in helping the current challenges, they will soon impact communication. At this moment in time, we have no idea the duration of time we will have to wear masks. But the pandemic could have caused deeper scars on us where we may feel, from now on, we can’t even imagine a life without wearing them in public For this reason, new technology, and masks designs will have to be implemented to help tackle and deal with the issues we are facing today.
As far as wearing face mask is concerned, it’s not so easy, but Apple’s facial recognition could unlock device even when wearing a mask.