MARGstudio, Alessio Casciano Design and Angeletti Ruzza have designed a colourful, inflatable face shield that could be used to allow people to socialise following the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The shield is designed for all people who want to return to live the conviviality of a lunch, dinner or drink in a public place, near friends and family," said Annalisa Grasselli of MARGstudio.
"The main purpose of the shield is to protect individuals and, at the same time, to allow freedom of movement in eating and drinking," she told Dezeen.
Face shields have become an important piece of personal protective equipment for health workers fighting the coronavirus, with Apple, Foster + Partners and Nike among the companies that are making the items to combat a global shortage.
The mask envisioned by the Italian designers, however, is not meant for use by health workers, but for people wanting to return to normal life after lockdown restrictions have been eased, but some social distancing is still required.
Named Soffio, which translates into English as blow, the face shield would have an inflatable structure made from PVC supporting a plastic visor with an elastic head strap. The shield is positioned away from the face to allow for the user to eat or drink while wearing it.
"It differs from other masks because it is a cantilevered mask: inside the mask we design a 'protected personal space' in which you can take food and drinks," explained Grasselli.
"Soffio creates a private environment only around the head and allows us to wear it and continue drinking and eating, the inside space is design to eat – for example – a slice of pizza or drink a glass of wine and, in the same time, look to our friend, talk and listen to other people – the mask it is fixed on the temples and leaves the ears free to hear."
The designers hope that the shield could help allow restaurants and bars to reopen after the coronavirus pandemic.
"Soffio allows you to continue to perform the actions of drinking and eating exactly as we did them before, but safely," said Grasselli. "It does not change our ways of experiencing social life in restaurants or bars."
"We wanted to find a practical solution for the world of restaurants and bars, in the Covid era," she continued. "As good Italians, who love to live sociality around a table, we could'nt think not helping the categories that are suffering so much in this pandemic."
Each mask could be manufactured for less than one Euro and the designers envision them being distributed by restaurants and bars, which could brand the items.
"It is an inexpensive, fun and portable object," added Grasselli. "Realisable in a very short time and distributable in less time, the coronavirus is now and we should solve the problem today."
While numerous face masks being created for health care workers, other designers have also been focusing on non-medical masks. Plastique Fantastique envisioned the iSphere mask based on 1950s sci-fi comics and Joe Doucet designed his face shield as a fashion accessory.