This high-tech face mask opens and closes with the touch of a button

The inventors claim it will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among people dining out.
Image: Israeli inventors develop a mask that allows diners to eat food without taking it off in Or Yehuda
Meir Gitelis, the father of the Israeli inventor behind the new device, eats while wearing a mask fitted with a mechanical mouth that opens to enable diners to eat without taking it off. AMIR COHEN / Reuters

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: TODAY
By Ronnie Koenig

As people continue getting accustomed to wearing face masks in public, a new invention that allows people to eat while still wearing a face covering has many questioning just how far they're willing to go in order to dine at a restaurant again.

A company in Israel has come up with a face mask that allows the wearer to open and close it with minimal effort. By squeezing a lever or pushing a button, a small slit in the front of the mask opens up so the wearer is able to shovel in breakfast, dinner and any other snacks in between without totally exposing their face.

But is looking like a creepier version of "Batman" super villain Bane really worth the opportunity to break bread with friends and strangers? The jury is still out on this one.

Download the TODAY app for the latest coverage on the coronavirus outbreak.

On Tuesday, NBC News' Dallas affiliate shared a video of Meir Gitelis, the dad of the Israeli inventor behind the mask (Asaf Gitelis), demonstrating how to eat with the mask on.

Viewers can see Gitelis squeezing the lever to sample his food as the mask opens and closes between bites. Though solid foods could easily pass through the gap, messier foods like saucy spaghetti and ice cream might prove challenging to mask wearers.

While wearing this mask may make going to restaurants where other strangers are dining a little less risky, the question remains: Will people actually wear it?

So far, reactions on social media have ranged from mildly horrified to totally amused.

"If that's what you have to do to enjoy dinner at a restaurant, then I'll keep on doing drive thru & curbside delivery," one tweeter commented.

"It feels like we are being punked more every day. This has to be a joke," tweeted another person.

Plenty of people found humor in the unusual-looking contraption.

"We understood that people want to go to restaurants and on planes and they need to eat," Asaf Gitelis, vice president of Avtipus Patents and Inventions (the company behind the mask), told TODAY Food. "When the coronavirus problem appeared, our engineer found a simple solution for eating in public places."

There are three types of masks the company is currently developing. The first, a simple version that opens with a button, was made over the span of a few days using a 3D printer. Another type operates with a mechanical remote. The most advanced option has an optical sensor that can tell when a fork is approaching the wearer's mouth and will open and close using a small motor.

Gitelis said the simple version will cost about $1-3 dollars, while the more advanced models will be pricier.

Gitelis' estimates his company, which typically files around 15 patents a month for new inventions, will be able to bring the simpler version of the mask to market in about two weeks. Though he did not provide a specific distribution plan, he said he hopes to make the masks available to customers in the U.S. soon.