AMS Spring 2023

Be Someone Else with Hyper-Realistic 3D Printed Faces from Japan

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Have you ever wanted to be someone else for a little while? Just not be you for a few days? With these new 3D printed hyper-realistic face masks from Japanese designer and retailer Shuhei Okawara, that dream could become a reality!

Shuhei Okawara, 30, owner of mask shop Kamenya Omote, wears a face mask based on a real person’s face as he stands in front of his shop in Tokyo, Japan, December 16, 2020. (Image: Issei Kato, Reuters)

Okawara owns a mask and theatrical accessories shop in Tokyo called Kamenya Omote, which features products that are popular as party accessories and theatrical performances. He thought that these masks, which were created using real people’s faces, would be a unique addition to his merchandise.

“Mask shops in Venice probably do not buy or sell faces. But that is something that’s likely to happen in fantasy stories. I thought it would be fun to actually do that,” Okawara said.

When I said that the masks were made using the faces of real people, I don’t mean that in a creepy Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs type of way. In October of 2020, Okawara launched this project by asking anonymous Japanese adults if they’d be willing to lend their facial features, via photographs, to make his realistic masks. He successfully recruited 100 applicants, who in return for 40,000 yen (roughly $386) sent him pictures of their faces.

Masks based on real people’s faces are displayed at Shuhei Okawara’s mask shop in Tokyo. (Image: Issei Kato, Reuters)

Okawara hired an artisan to take the pictures and rework them into extremely realistic replicas, which were then 3D printed in the form of masks. I mean, I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but this project is taking face masks to a whole different level. However, Okawara explained that these 3D printed face masks won’t protect anyone from COVID-19 or any other virus. They’re just meant to be fun, like in cosplay, or as artwork.

“As is often the case with the customers of my shop, there are not so many people who buy (face masks) for specific purposes,” Okawara explained. “Most see them as art pieces.”

Shuhei Okawara, 30, owner of mask shop Kamenya Omote, shows off a mask based on a real person’s face, in Tokyo. (Image: Issei Kato, Reuters)

According to Okawara, ongoing inquiries from customers for his unique new 3D printed product show that the demand for the realistic and slightly creepy masks will be pretty high, and is confident that they will sell well. The masks will go on sale at Okawara’s Tokyo shop in early 2021 for 98,000 yen apiece, which equals about $950 per mask. In the future, he is hoping to expand the range of faces his 3D printed masks offer, and even include some non-Japanese faces as well.

Shuhei Okawara, 30, owner of mask shop Kamenya Omote, holds a super-realistic face mask based on his own face, made by using 3D printing technology, in Tokyo

Check out Okawara’s Instagram account if you want to see more pictures of the 3D printed facial masks being worn by happy customers, and also placed in some pretty unusual spots.

Image courtesy of Shuhei Okawara via Instagram
Image courtesy of Shuhei Okawara via Instagram

(Sources: Interesting Engineering / Reuters)

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