Necessity is the mother of invention. Nowhere is this more apparent than in times of duress. Indeed, some could say coronavirus is the pandemic of invention. With the outbreak, a surge of innovations has cropped up, everything from hands-free door openers to makeshift ventilators. Here are a few of the concepts that are creating a seismic shift in the battle against COVID-19.
The Dawn of the Coronavirus Invention: What’s Out There
Hands-free door openers
Coronavirus can live on surfaces for up to three days, which makes high-touch areas such as doorknobs a major health hazard. In response to the need for alternate solutions, London-based designer Steve Brooks has brought the “hygienehook” to market.
Small, portable and easy to clean, hygienehook is available in four different varieties and could be a real game-changer in the sanitation game, both at home and outdoors. Proving he’s not strictly in the for-profit game, Brooks is donating one hook for every one he sells.
Wyn Griffiths, an ordinary Welsh citizen, has designed a prototype ‘arm’ which clips onto door handles with a crook to open the door. The clip can be operated using the forearm, and Griffiths has shared the 3D design online, where anyone can download it.
“Hopefully, people who have a 3D printer can help out their local hospital or anywhere the public visits by distributing these around the country,” Griffiths told the BBC in a recent interview.
UK biotech firm Virustatic Shield recently patented a “snood” mask with an antiviral coating. The designers claim that the mask kills more than 95% of any viruses, including COVID-19. Currently, the company is producing one million snood masks per week.
As the lack of intensive care unit (ICU) ventilators continues to be a central issue in fighting coronavirus, Dr. Rhys Thomas devised a basic ventilator that not only allows its user to breathe, it also kills COVID-19.
“Although it won’t replace an ICU ventilator, the majority of patients won’t need intensive care if they are treated with this ventilator first,” Dr. Thomas told the BBC.
“The machine will clean the room of viral particles and only supply purified air to the patient. The patient can self-care, releasing specialist nurses for other duties,” he said.
Slightly Robot, a small start-up based in Seattle Washington Seattle, was the birthplace of a wristband created to reduce compulsive nail-biting, hair-pulling and skin-picking. As the pandemic spread, owners of Slightly Robot realized that their tech could be applied to prevent face touching in a COVID world.
Brothers Joseph and Matthew Toles and their friend Justin Ith adapted the design to create the Immutouch, which buzzes when the wearer’s hand goes near their face.
“We had the algorithm, we had the software and the hardware. We’ve repurposed it for face touching,” said Toles in a recent interview. “We made 350 devices and a website in one week.”
Another company repurposing its tech is the AI company Scylla, which makes gun detection systems for schools and casinos. Realizing they had a role to play in preventing the spread of the disease, software engineers re-deployed its AI analytics software to measure the temperature of a person’s forehead, sending out an alert if a fever is detected.
Scylla’s Chief Technology Officer Ara Ghazaryan described how widely the software could be applied, including hospitals, airports and corporate offices. One South American government has already placed an order for 5,000 licenses.
Creative Competitions and Think Tanks Search for Coronavirus Invention
Companies big and small are all stepping up to produce or redirect their production towards innovations that will help stop the spread of COVID-19. “There is definitely a ton of people with 3D resources very willing to help,” MacKenzie Brown told CNA.
Brown is the founder of CAD Crowd, a California-based design company. Brown recently launched a month-long contest for practical devices that can be applied to a world surging with coronavirus.
Two weeks ago, his company launched a month-long contest for practical devices for navigating the new coronavirus world. According to the site, “The contest involves creating products that will be shared under a publicly downloadable open source license.” The aim is to create designs that can be quickly and affordably produced either with 3D printing or pre-made parts that are readily available.
So far, entrants have submitted ideas such as:
- A wrist-mounted disinfectant sprayer a-la-Spiderman.
- Half gloves for pushing buttons using your knuckles.
- A device that lets you open car doors without touching the handle.
- 3D-printable protective face shields.
- Temporary acrylic doors for supermarket fruit displays.
- Disposable doorknob sleeves.
- Foot-operated doorknobs.
In addition to eliminating the spread of COVID-19, what makes us hopeful for the future is the speed, voracity and ingenuity with which products and services have been brought to market. Large companies, small startups and individuals alike have joined forces in unprecedented solidarity, and the fruits of their labor will have a long-lasting shelf life beyond the outbreak.