Self-sanitized autonomous pods combine public transit with safe socializing

COVID-19 has changed the perception of life in the last year or so, and it’s still showing no signs of retreating as new variants push their claws towards human life. Scientific researches have proved that such pandemics will be a common affair in the coming time, and to get around them, we’ll have to alter our living methodology. Pretty obviously, the way we commute is also going to take a ‘detour’ – especially in public transport systems. Pivot of Safety by Yongho Jeon is a look into the future where maintaining social distancing in public transit will be of prime importance.

The autonomous share ride system is imagined as a 1, 2, or 4 person unit with an airy home-like space being the focus. Keeping things very minimal on the inside, the idea here is to create a relaxing environment while making sure of safety when we talk of social distancing. The pod-like vehicle segregates the sitting area for each passenger with glass separators and individual infotainment systems to keep in touch with friends & family. Air purifiers and UV sanitization (on exposed surfaces such as tables) ensure the minimal spread of contagious viruses or other pathogens for the safety of the rider. There are plants potted in between the four-person pod unit’s diving section to bring the calming effect indoors.

Once a passenger or group of passengers have completed their journey, the pod self-disinfects using UV light. Over the wheels, there is space for storage of luggage or any big items passengers want to haul. The concept makes even more sense in an uncertain future where being safe is the only option to stay clear of harm’s way and helping curb the spread of deadly pathogens. Yongho’s concept is practical and has a very clean design blueprint that is feasible in real-world settings.

Designer: Yongho Jeon

Honeywell and rapper just debuted a futuristic face-mask with built-in wireless earphones

I’ll be honest, nothing about that title is even remotely predictable. In fact, it gets progressively weirder with every subsequent word. You wouldn’t expect to release a medical product, more so, partner with Honeywell over it… but together the rapper and the OEM conglomerate collaborated over a mask that combines the best of both parties. Titled the XUPERMASK, the $299 face-mask comes with dual three-speed fans and HEPA filters, but also packs Bluetooth earphones with noise canceling audio and 7-hour battery life. I’ll be honest, the association with aside, the mask really looks pretty futuristic (it comes co-designed by Hollywood costume-designer Jose Fernandez, who also designed the SpaceX astronaut suits). The fact that it’s built by Honeywell lends it a good amount of credibility, and I can’t believe I’m saying this but I could actually see myself wearing one of these.

The XUPERMASK attempts at turning face-masks into a bit of a pop-culture item. It surely isn’t fluff… the mask is awaiting FDA approval, and it comes fitted with replaceable HEPA filters made by Honeywell – a company that’s built itself on designing the world’s greatest HVAC systems. The pop-culture element comes from rapper and Black Eyed Peas member, who aims to turn the XUPERMASK into a renegade pair of wireless earphones too.

As far as the face-mask part of the design is concerned, the XUPERMASK sports a universal fit, thanks to a silicone face-seal and a high-performance elastic strap that wraps around your head. The mask is outfitted with dual-fans that work at 3-speed settings to deliver purified air directly to your face as you breathe. Air is pushed through a set of pleated HEPA filters manufactured by Honeywell, and the filters are designed to be replaced every 30 days for optimal performance. The fans themselves run for an impressive 7 hours on a full charge, providing enough usage to get you through most of your day… and to seal the deal, the mask even sports glowing LED rings around each fan for that futuristic appeal.

Aside from being just a face-mask, the XUPERMASK (pronounced Supermask, if you’re still wondering) also packs a pair of wireless earphones too. The earphones emerge from the sides of the mask, and can be docked on the mask itself on designated magnetic panels. When you want to wear them, just pop the earphones off and place them in your ear. The earphones come with Bluetooth 5.0, pairing seamlessly with any smart-device. They come with active noise-canceling (pretty impressive for a face-mask), and even house an integrated noise-reduction microphone for things like answering calls or sending voice-messages. There’s no indication of where this microphone is located, but I’d be thoroughly impressed if it was within the mask’s enclosure itself. It would essentially mean you could talk while wearing the mask and not have your voice get muffled.

The XUPERMASK comes in two colors for now – one in pure black, and another in a white + orange combination. Just visually, it does look pretty impressive. The LED rings, metallic fan covers, and those magnetic earbuds, all set the XUPERMASK apart. The mask even comes with a set of controls built on either side, allowing you to toggle fan speed, the LED light, switch on/off the ANC feature, and do basic things like answer calls or play-pause music. Off the top of my head, a fan-powered face-mask with earphones does sound like a crazy idea that might just work, and with the XUPERMASK, Honeywell and are betting on a future where masks will still be a common outdoor face-accessory… in which case, having wireless earphones built into your face-mask just sounds a tad bit more sensible. The XUPERMASK is currently available in two sizes, and for a retail price of $299. The mask comes as a part of a XUPERKIT (I’m guessing the nomenclature was’s idea), which includes a carry-case, 3 months worth of replaceable HEPA filters, a USB charging cable, and replaceable earphone tips for different ear-sizes. The XUPERMASK hasn’t received FDA approval yet, but it has been granted authorization for emergency use.

Designers: & Jose I. Fernandez in partnership with Honeywell

This portable ‘smart’ spray bottle can turn regular water into sanitizer!

Relying on a process that turns regular tap water into Electrolysed (EO) water, the IOON spray gives you an instant, effective, non-toxic sanitizer that you can spray on everything from your hands to door-handles, and from elevator buttons to cutlery (and even food!)

When electrolyzed or ionized, water breaks down into a solution of hypochlorous acid and sodium hydroxide, which acts as a remarkable detergent and disinfectant, instantly killing bacteria, cleansing off harmful chemicals from food, purifying the air, as well as busting odors. The technology, which has existed for over 4 decades, creates an all-purpose cleaning solution that replaces the need for carpet-cleaners, floor-cleaners, room-fresheners, car-fresheners, fruit and vegetable purifiers, and general disinfectants. Needless to say, the electrolyzed water is food-safe, child-safe, and eliminates the need to clean your house with chemicals that aren’t healthy… and the IOON, a small, portable spraying device, can electrolyze and spray the water directly from within its hand-held, wireless form factor.

The IOON comes with a small, replaceable silver-ion cartridge that aids in the electrolysis/ionization process. The cartridge lasts anywhere from 9-12 months depending on how often you use it, and it forms the only replaceable part of the entire design. The rest of the IOON sanitizer is for keeps, lasting you years while a small sanitizer bottle could just do the job for months before being thrown away. Using the IOON is simple… just fill it up with any kind of water and ensure that the IOON device is charged (using the MicroUSB charging port below). Once charged, the IOON takes about 20 minutes to ionize the water, making it potent enough to last up to 3 full days. Once ionized, the water is just as good as, if not more effective than your isopropyl-alcohol sanitizer… except it’s also safe on the skin, non-toxic, food-grade, can replace a bunch of other household disinfectants, and can even eliminate odor by dismantling odor molecules. When it’s done, the tiny bottle slips right into your pocket or bag, letting you carry it anywhere and sanitize anything!

Designer: IOON

Multipurpose EDC lets you pull door handles, push buttons, and carry bags without touching anything

Ever wondered why pirates with severed arms had hooks in their place? I’ve often wondered too and the one conclusion I keep coming to is that the hook allows you to the most number of basic activities – from pushing to pulling, carrying, and occasionally swiping. Moreover, you could zipline with it, and that sort of sounds like something pirates do a lot. Looking at the award-winning Handy EDC, I’m often reminded of that hook. It isn’t really a replacement for the hand but is a clever extension of it, allowing you to conduct most of your outdoor activities without touching a single foreign surface. Developed as a result of the pandemic, the Handy is a clever little EDC that lets you do practically most activities that require pushing, pulling, carrying, or pressing.

Crafted from metal, Handy is an open-source tool designed to keep you safe and germ-free. Its simple design allows it to easily slip onto your fingers like brass knuckles, giving you a great degree of control. Hooks on the opposite end come with protruded dots for easily pressing buttons on a keypad or elevator, while the hooks themselves act as useful devices for pulling open doors, twisting handles, or even carrying bags. When all’s said and done, just slide Handy into your pocket, or better still, attach it to your keychain using its dedicated keychain-hole. Handy comes in two sizes, a larger one that’s open-source and 3D printable, and a smaller one that you can pre-order on designer Matteo Zallio’s website.

The Handy EDC is a winner of the International Design Award for the year 2020.

Designers: Matteo Zallio & Giulia Scagliotti

Super Nintendo World will open March 18th with strong COVID-19 measures

After the planned February 4th launch was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Super Nintendo World will open on March 18th, Universal Studios Japan has announced. The park, located at Universal Studios in Osaka, will welcome a limited number of vis...

Russian, Chinese hackers may have stolen European vaccine data

State-backed hackers' attempts to steal COVID-19 vaccine data might be farther-reaching than you think. According to Reuters, sources for Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant claim (subscription required) that Russia and China both launched cyberattacks...

These autonomous pods are re-imagining safe public-transit by making local trams and buses smaller

Although this sense of paranoia is fairly recent, the thought of stepping into an overcrowded bus or subway should probably strike fear and panic in most of us. Imagining “Public Transport” without the word “Public” can be difficult. How do you create a mass transit system that’s bespoke, and that doesn’t involve multiple people in close proximity? And moreover, how do you manage this system while ensuring it’s beneficial to the public and safe for cities?

Those are some really tough questions, and NewDealDesign seems intent on looking for the answers. Having worked on a whole slew of smart-mobility projects, including the recently debuted ‘Serve’, an autonomous delivery robot for Postmates, the San Francisco-based company carried their wealth of research and experience into Rolla – the future of city-based mass-transit.

Rolla takes mass-transit and personalizes/isolates it. Think of something on the lines of individual ski-lifts, or cable-cars traveling on the same network… minus the cables. Designed as a cabin that moves, the Rolla is an entire network of human-sized, human-friendly pods that you can step in and step out of (another relevant example that comes to mind is that of an elevator). The Rolla has the ability to work on fixed routes like a public bus, allowing you to hail one and step in, as well as on personal routes, letting you summon a Rolla on an app. Designed for relatively short journeys, the pod allows you to stand within it as it travels to your stop.

What the Rolla gets right is its simplicity and intuitiveness. It’s a culmination and combination of familiar experiences that let you easily trust it without ‘fearing the underlying tech’. The pod feels a lot like a bus or subway, allowing you to stand within it and grab onto a handrail, while the app for bespoke journeys works quite like a cab-hailing application. The pod’s relatively open too, sort of like a tram, enabling you to hop on and hop off in a heartbeat as it autonomously travels through the city’s networks. This small size and open format not only makes the Rolla friendly and unassuming, it also makes it easy to disinfect between journeys as the pod travels through a sanitation-station between multiple trips, cleaning itself for the next passenger.

Its open and welcoming design is reinforced by an immersive and memorable experience. The almost SIM-card shape of the Rolla is instantly iconic, with expressive LED headlights on the front indicating the pod’s intent as it autonomously drives. The inside of the Rolla, however, is designed to be dynamic, with light-piping that gives the vehicle a designated color – yellow for public transport, purple for private transport, and blue for fixed private routes like within a campus. The interiors are outfitted with displays too, that tell you the route and time, welcome individual riders, and show your progress on a map for clarity.

While Rolla currently exists only as a concept, it provides a neat framework for how cities can adapt to the pandemic by providing public transit in a manner that’s safe. The individual pods can easily be deployed on a city’s roads with no additional infrastructure like stations or rails. They run on electric energy, and something as simple as solar panels could ensure that the vehicles run for longer on sustainable energy. They can operate on pre-designated bus routes too, reducing the need to plan out new routes, and given how easy it is to roll out new Rollas, the entire system of autonomous pods can easily be upgraded as cities expand!

Designer: NewDealDesign

Daan Roosegaarde designed an artificial ‘sun’ that can disinfect public spaces with UV light

The Urban Sun, designed by Studio Roosegaarde along with a team of scientists and virus experts, aims at bringing the rehabilitating power of the sun to public spaces. The artificial sun hovers above open areas, with a UVC lamp underneath it, creating an eclipse-like halo that disinfects everything within its reach. The Urban Sun uses a special 222nm wavelength of Far-UVC that’s powerful at killing the coronavirus but remains completely safe for human exposure.

The video above begins with a simple premise, “Imagine a place where you could meet again”. The Urban Sun hopes to make public spaces safe again. “The goal is not to say that we don’t need the vaccine or we that don’t need masks,” said Roosegaarde. “Urban Sun doesn’t cure coronavirus, but it does allow social gatherings to be safer.” The UV 222 light, specially calibrated and tested by the Dutch National Metrology Institute VSL, can neutralize 99.9% of all viruses in minutes, making social interactions a possibility, and encouraging people to congregate again, safely.

Urban Sun works by being tethered to overhead cables and suspended over a large area. It comes with two broad parts – a powerful lamp that illuminates akin to an artificial sun, and an orb containing the UV 222 lamp underneath that washes spaces with safe, disinfecting UVC light, allowing people to interact while vastly minimizing the risk of spreading viruses like the Coronavirus or even the influenza virus. The Urban Sun was designed in response to how the world changed overnight in the wake of the pandemic. “Suddenly our world is filled with plastic barriers and distance stickers, our family reduced to pixels on a computer screen. Let’s be the architects of our new normal and create better places to meet”, said Daan Roosegaarde, founder of Studio Roosegaarde. A self-funded project, the Urban Sun began in 2019 and eventually blossomed into an interdisciplinary collaboration between designers, scientists, and researchers from the USA, Japan, Italy, and the Netherlands. The studio developed the first prototype to work in Somerset House in London, although Daan envisions the Urban Sun as being installed at open public spaces to make social interaction safe again, and hopes to take Urban Sun to large-scale events such as the Olympic Games or the Burning Man Festival.

Designer: Daan Roosegaarde (Studio Roosegaarde)