Dezeen Magazine

Noma Studio Incognito mask

Ewa Nowak's anti-AI mask protects wearers from mass surveillance

Polish designer Ewa Nowak has developed a mask that makes the wearer's face undetectable to facial recognition algorithms used in public surveillance cameras.

Nowak designed the Incognito mask in an attempt to reclaim the privacy and anonymity that they feel has been lost to face-detecting cameras installed in public spaces.

Noma Studio Incognito mask

Described by the designer as "face jewellery", the main structure of the mask-like accessory consists of a long piece of brass that has been shaped to fit the contours of the face, curving behind the ears like a pair of glasses.

It features three prominent elements that work together to make the wearer's face "unrecognisable" to cameras. These are two brass circles that sit below the wearer's eyes, and a rectangular element positioned between the eyes.

Noma Studio Incognito mask

"Every day, hundreds of cameras are watching us, facial recognition systems are becoming more and more perfect, and the place of current speculations about the future is occupied by sophisticated and advanced technology," said the designer.

"Cameras are able to recognise our age, mood, or sex and precisely match us to the database – the concept of disappearing in the crowd ceases to exist," she continued.

"This has a huge value in the form of increased security and detection of dangerous units. On the other hand, in which direction will the surveillance of society develop?"

The final design was the initial one that Nowak tested, as it worked first time. In this case, according to the designer, "the form almost entirely resulted from the function of this object".

Nowak then tested the design by uploading photos taken with the mask on to Facebook.

She made use of the site's DeepFace deep-learning facial-recognition system, which accurately identifies the people pictured and asks if you'd like to tag them.

Due to the size and arrangement of each of the elements of the mask, the prominent features on the human face are disturbed, and face-recognition algorithms in surveillance cameras aren't equipped to read them correctly.

Noma Studio Incognito mask

However, in addition to fulfilling its function, the designer wanted to create an object that was also aesthetically pleasing, and that the user would enjoy wearing.

While the object is currently a concept, Nowak sees it as a piece of jewellery that could be commonly worn in the future.

In a similar project, Katja Trinkwalder and Pia-Marie Stute designed a series of add-on objects, or Accessories For The Paranoid, that block or thwart the collection of people's user information.