Blow Up Your Face

[Yuji Hayashi] and some of his buddies in Tokyo did a fun project at the Tokyo Maker Faire last August that proved to be a big hit. They built a cardboard box which enlarged the wearers face when it was worn. It’s an amazing effect — high resolution and impossible to look at without plastering your face with a huge smile!

Low Poly paper face mask
Low poly paper face mask which prompted this new technique

This work was the result of their frustration with a previous project they did early last year. They would take multiple pictures of a person’s head and use software to stitch up the images. The resulting print on a large sheet of paper was then cut, folded and glued to create a low-poly 3D paper mask of the person. Their bottleneck was that the whole process took well over 2 hours for each mask. Even reducing the mask mesh complexity, and omitting the back of the head didn’t make it much faster. But the activity was so fun, that they had to figure out a way to repeat it but in a simpler and faster way.

Obviously, a different tack was needed. A team member was visiting a research institute and saw a Fresnel lens lying around. He took a picture of himself behind the lens and shared it with the team. They inquired with a lens manufacturer and obtained a sample. After some fiddling to get the right focal distance, it seemed like they had a winner. Attaching the lens to a cardboard box and fixing it to a volunteer head raised another problem. The inside of the box was too dark for the wearers face to be seen clearly. Nothing that some LED strips couldn’t solve. The initial LEDs were cool white and gave a ghostly, pale blue tinge to the wearers face. Warm white LEDs created a much better effect. Finally, it was time to trim the Fresnel lens (done easily using a sharp blade) and to wrap up the project. On the day the Maker Faire opened, they had a set of four of these “face magnifiers” available for visitors to have fun with. As the pictures show, the result was awesome, and way better than the original, paper mask idea. Not surprising, given that the Japanese love their Animé and Manga comics and are great fans of Cosplay.

If this project stirs up your creativity, then let us goad you towards Hackaday’s 2017 Sci-Fi Contest where you can submit an awesome Sci-Fi Project to win some cool prizes.

29 thoughts on “Blow Up Your Face

  1. “As it’s acrylic, it would be faster to cut with a laser beam machine, but we gave up on the idea as it’s too big to fit the machine. As the plate itself is a lens, the laser may spread by accident, causing a Godzilla Resurgence situation”

    I like the way they put that.

  2. I would imagine that it would be a like a giant pair of binoculars without anything held close to your head in magnified 3D. Just don’t look up at the sun even when it’s low say at the beach. I have one off a big screen TV without spreading optics. It would take a stove sized box to do this.

    What does it look like at night?

  3. Kids tend to whine in an unreasonable manner, but this time the reason itself was perfectly unreasonable.

    I was there last year with the Tokyohackerspace group. Taylan and I have some wonderful photos with the big face boxes on our heads. So fun.

    This team makes lots of wacky fun stuff every year.

  4. I want to make a big head too, I saw them at Maker Faire this year.

    I bought a fresnel lens online but I can’t really see through it, I’m pretty sure when I tried it at Maker Faire I’m pretty sure I could put the head on a walk around and still see pretty well.

    Any idea where I could find such a lens or is there a specific name for the type of fresnel lens I need?

    The Alibaba link posted above is dead.



    1. Cheap binoculars, the ones without prisms, will just be basic Galilean optics, with a magnifier up front, and strong convex lenses at the back… so rip those out and use them to correct the fresnel and you’ll get a 2 or 3x mag, but be able to see.

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