COVID-19 test material made from gelatin is sustainable, plastic-free

To say that COVID-19 brought a lot of problems globally is probably the understatement of the decade. Aside from the obvious medical, social, and economic effects, there has also been a major impact on our environment, particularly in terms of the increase of single-use plastics. COVID-19 tests have of course been a necessity but they have contributed to non-biodegradable medical waste that we throw away every day. Since we’ll probably be living with this virus for some years, there must be a way to stem this use of single-use plastics.

Designer: Luis Fernando Sanchez Barrios

This Mexico-based designer thought about this growing problem. The fact that we throw away 10g of plastic every time we use a lateral flow coronavirus test is troubling if you think about the environmental footprint that this leaves. So he thought about coming up with a more sustainable alternative to the current lateral flow assays or anything that’s being used to test for the COVID-19 virus. Another concern would be something that will not add to the cost of making these tests. What he came up with is something called Gelassette.

The designer actually created a biodegradable cellulose-based rapid test back in 2020 but now he has come up with something based on this but with an improved and optimized design. This new prototype uses no plastic with the positive characteristics needed mimicked by gelatin. This material is already utilized in other medical technology and is a fully biodegradable material. With this material, you get 4 weeks soil biodegradability and less than 3 hours of water dispersibility.

This is a pretty important development in terms of coming up with more environment-friendly COVID-19 tests. Now as to whether Gelassette will work with these existing lateral flow assay tests from various medical companies is another thing.

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World’s first fully biodegradable COVID test aims at tackling our massive medical waste problem

A London-based design consultancy has created a concept testing device for Covid-19 that cuts down on the single-use plastic waste that has plagued us since the beginning of the pandemic. An estimated 26,000 tonnes of plastic Covid waste currently pollutes our oceans, according to a study published in November last year. Morrama’s ECO-FLO hopes to curb that number.

“Plastic has been at the front line of the pandemic – face masks, lateral flow tests, and sanitizer bottles” Morrama’s founder and creative director Jo Barnard said. “With new COVID-19 variants constantly evolving, active testing has been and will remain to be an important part of living with COVID-19. At Morrama, we were inspired to create a test kit that doesn’t contribute to the amount of plastic ending up in our landfills, so ECO-FLO was born.”

ECO-FLO was envisioned as a one-of-a-kind test kit that, instead of relying on nasal swabs, uses a saliva sample instead. The kit comes in four parts – the test kit, the test strip, an absorbent pad, and a sachet. While current lateral flow and PCR tests have a much more complicated (and failure-prone) procedure, using the ECO-FLO is much easier and foolproof. Just open the kit up and place your saliva sample in the designated absorbent pad. Close the kit and press the button on the front, and your results get displayed on the test strip. Once you’re done, place the kit back inside its sachet and dispose of it carefully.

The kit itself is made from recycled paper pulp, while the sachet it’s contained in uses a biodegradable Nature Flex film. Morrama mentions that when disposed of, the kit can naturally break down and disintegrate within 4 to 6 weeks.

Aside from being easy on the environment, Morrama mentions that ECO-FLO’s saliva-based testing system is a game-changing innovation too. The London-based studio is tapping into a nascent technology known as Parallel Amplified Saliva rapid POint-of-caRe Test (PASPORT) to make their test kit work. Unlike nasal swabs, which are invasive and also need to be performed with skill, the saliva-based testing kit offers a much more intuitive alternative. Reading the test results are easier too. Unlike current testing strips that read C for Control and T for Test, Morrama’s ECO-FLO uses a “tick box” style to indicate whether the result is positive. The London-based consultancy adds that it could be made available via the NHS or over the counter at pharmacies.

“Existing lateral flow tests were a reaction to the threat of the pandemic and were rolled at-speed to enable at-home testing. As a result, there were almost no considerations about the ease of use and the impact on the environment in either the production or disposal process. Now we have an opportunity to correct these mistakes”, says Andy Trewin Hutt, Associate Director at Morrama. “We have developed ECO-FLO to highlight the need for a more sustainable design. Projecting forward to future pandemics, ECO-FLO could offer a simpler, more accessible and more sustainable option to aid in keeping people safe through instantaneous mass testing, designed with people and the planet in mind.”

Designer: Morrama

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Sculptor creates scientifically accurate glass creations of bacteria and viruses

In the past two years, we’ve seen an increase in interest in things like bacteria and viruses. Of course, we’d like to learn more about something that has drastically changed our lives. We searched for articles, watched videos, and viewed TikTok and Instagram posts, all trying to understand why this virus has affected us so. If you’re more of a visual learner, seeing all the videos and sketches of the COVID-19 virus was more helpful than just reading about it.

Designer: Luke Jerram

British glass sculptor Luke Jerram has been doing a series of creations called Glass Microbiology since 2004. What he makes is not just a basic interpretation of all kinds of bacteria and viruses but an accurate representation of what they really look like. He has created everything from the swine flu, to smallpox, to ebola. And then early 2020, Duke University commissioned him to create a glass sculpture to help the public better understand the SARS-COV-2 virus by visualizing it.

Jerram chose to use glass with his microbiology series since it is transparent and also brings tension to the viewer. The creations are both beautiful but it also represents something that can destroy our bodies. To add to the realism of the sculptures, he first collects scientific diagrams as well as electron microscopic images from a special microscope. After that, he starts creating technical drawings and then enlists the help of scientific glassblowers or lampworkers.

They will then use cold borosilicate glass to create the glass sculptures, melting it over the flame and then stretching and shaping it according to the technical drawings. This is the same material that is used for material test tubes. It doesn’t really follow the same procedure as traditional glassblowing because that uses molten glass for its first step. The latest sculpture that Jerram created was a little more positive, so to speak: he created a glass sculpture of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Jerram has previously created moon sculptures which are also more scientifically accurate rather than the “romanticized” versions that we see in art. He also had a “Play me, I’m Yours” initiative that brought more than 2,000 pianos to various public places around the world.

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Top 10 face masks including the world’s first emotional LED mask to help you stay safe in the third wave

In 2020 face masks became an integral part of our outfits. We may forget our smartwatch or even our smartphone, but forgetting our face mask? That’s a major no-no. And just when we thoughts our days of religiously wearing masks every day were slowly fading away, the Omnicron variant emerged in all its glory! With whispers of a third wave and an upcoming lockdown slithering in the air, it’s time we get prepared for such a scenario. And if you’re going to be bulk stocking face masks, then we have a whole variety of super innovative ones for you. Face masks have come a long way from the typical N95 design we had all grown so accustomed to. From the world’s first emotional LED mask to a mask with an in-built mic and speakers – these face mask designs will have you going gaga over their smart and futuristic tech! It’s a new era of face masks, and we’ve curated the best of the lot for you.

1. The Qudi Mask

The world’s first emotional LED mask was unmasked at CES 2022 by Qudi. Consisting of translucent eye goggles and an attached mouth coverage, the mask includes 199 smart LED pixels. Equipped with seven modes, each boasting different LED displays, the mask even contains a robot mode. The robot mode expresses six emotions such as love, smile, shocked, confused, angry, and a cat face as well! The demo mode is quite interesting since it allows the mask to alternate between 12 built-in animations! Whereas the equalizer mode enables the mask to respond to the volume of music being played. Pretty cool, no?

2. The Airable

The Airable is, at least on paper, a rather slim AR-headset-shaped device with air vents on the forehead facing downwards, and a clear plastic visor to prevent the gust of wind from blowing directly in your eyes. One could easily imagine that the Airable has a built-in filter of its own, which ensures that the air curtain only blows pure air (another research paper debates the use of ionized air to kill viruses instantly). Sounds pretty great on paper, and I definitely hope a team of designers and engineers are building or prototyping such a device.

3. The Venta

The Venta mask separates the conventional face mask into three simple parts. A transparent shield, two replaceable filters, and the head strap. Designed to highlight your expression, the mask comes with a flexible transparent TPU cover, with two air filters plugged into the side, working almost like a pair of gills on either side of the face. The air you breathe enters and exits through these filters, ensuring you inhale clean air, and exhale without letting respiratory droplets out into the atmosphere. While the mask is currently in its developmental/conceptual phase, one would imagine it comes with some sort of anti-fog coating on the inside that ensures the transparent mask doesn’t mist up on the inside with your breath. The filters also automatically change color when they need to be replaced, making it easier to know when your mask needs a fresh set of filters so that you’re always breathing clean air.

4. The Razer Zephyr

This face mask concept showcased a glossy, waterproof, and scratch-resistant shell, transparent by design to allow for lip-reading, and made from recycled plastic. The main attraction is the two circular ‘Active Ventilation’ discs that sit on the sides of your mouth and hold the reusable N95 filters that give a 95% filtration efficiency. As Razer says, “The Razer Zephyr is not a medical device, respirator, surgical mask, or personal protective equipment (PPE) and is not meant to be used in medical or clinical settings. It is not tested specifically against the COVID-19 virus but offers the same functionality and adequate protection due to its 99% BFE rating.”

5. The MaskFone

The MaskFone is a smart face mask equipped with wireless earbuds and a built-in microphone. It enables you to talk on call, or listen to music while you have your mask on! The mask also features control buttons, so you don’t really need to pull your phone out. MaskFone’s breathable and washable fabric also ensures that it lasts a lifetime! You can also add replaceable PM2.5 and N95/FFP2 filters to the mask for an extra level of protection.

6. The PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier

LG announced the latest version of the PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier (that’s an odd naming convention) that had three fans and a couple of HEPTA filters to keep most pathogens out. The new face mask has a smaller and lighter motor and built-in microphones and speakers. The latter helps in automatically amplifying the wearer’s voice when talking, courtesy of the VoiceON technology. For that matter, the techno Razer Project Hazel face mask has a similar tech to make communication easier. The improvements on the LG PuriCare don’t stop there as it weighs just 94 grams now and has a 1,000mAh battery with a recharge time of two hours.

7. The Blocc

Think of the Blocc as a helmet visor sans the helmet, fashionable enough to be worn on its own, and FDA-registered for daily use. Made from scratch-resistant fog-resistant clear polycarbonate, the Blocc is as easy (and as comfortable) as wearing a pair of spectacles, and protects your eyes, nose, and mouth—the main pathways to infection—from direct droplets, sprays, and splashes. Two temple stems suspend the Blocc by your ears while a nose-bridge allows the visor to rest comfortably against your nose and roughly an inch away from your face. The face shield itself is made from the same polymer as actual helmet visors (and even riot gear) and is engineered for crystal-clear, distortion-free visibility, allowing you to see through it with ease

8. The Airhead Mask

 The Airhead Mask was designed to play a pivotal role in that future. It comes with a slim, lightweight design that looks just as compact as a regular face mask, but under its hood lies a nanofiber filter that provides clean, 99% pure air directly to your nose and mouth. The mask’s overall design is focused on the people who’d like to be able to breathe clean air even with an active lifestyle. Designed by a group of passionate cyclists who wanted to stay healthy, Airhead was made to be a lightweight, ergonomic mask that provided clean, purified air directly to your nose and mouth while you worked out or just went about your day.

9. The Umai Facemask

Ruitao Li developed the Umai Facemask, a silicone face covering with a breathing valve, air filter, and small mouthpiece slot that can be used to eat and drink while wearing the mask. Users can fill their bottles with their preferred beverages and say goodbye to airplane dry mouths. The removable straw can even be swapped from Umai’s water bottle and used to drink from another one. Umai Facemask’s breathing valve and air filter also make wearing a face mask feel a little more comfortable. Powered up with a type-c charge, the air filter ensures that the air you’re breathing in is clean and fresh, while the breathing valve circulates the air inside the mask to avoid the damp humidity that comes with conventional face masks.

10. The Maasc

What sets the Maasc apart from your surgical grade mask or the N95 mask is its patented BreatheEase™ Fan which provides you with a breeze of purified air inside your mask. Unlike most masks that require you to breathe extra hard to pull air through those filters, Maasc does it for you, giving you both filtration and breezy comfort without that familiar stuffy feeling. The fan, which sits right in front of your face, pulls air from the outside and pushes it through the Maasc’s replaceable filter system.

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Tokyo’s unique Blue Bottle Cafe offers a safe experience for introverts & coffee lovers!

If I want to be more productive, I usually go work in a cafe to have a change of space or do a coffee run as a reward for finishing my tasks. But ever since the pandemic started, it has almost been impossible to work in a cafe but it has also become trickier to pick up coffee while making sure sanitizer doesn’t get into it! But this Blue Bottle Coffee pop-up in Shibuya, Tokyo is making that little normal part of our lives safer by creating a contactless experience to get our coffees using AI robots.

The interior architecture is designed to utilize the technology of AI cafe robot ‘Root C’ which is a service that lets you order from a screen and pick up your fresh coffee from a capsule. There are multiple slots that make up a whole wall of lockers and it almost looks like capsule hotels but tinier for your drink!

Designed by the Schema Architectural Plan, the capsules resemble a beehive. Wood is used to add warmth and translucent acrylic that covers the capsule is inspired by the glow of honey. It is designed to make you feel comfortable even if you are staying for a short time, taking home a drink.

It is a simple way to adapt to the demand for contactless service and safety while still making it a pleasant experience (especially when compared to a drive-thru!). When the barista places the coffee in the locker, the capsule glows to alert you that you can pick up your drink.

The ordering and receiving locker system is only available in Blue Bottle’s Shibuya location for now. Not only does it reduce the risk of transmission and protect people, but it is also a blessing for introverts in all circumstances – ordering without interacting with anyone.

Designer: Schema Architectural Plan, New Innovations, and Blue Bottle Coffee

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This bizarre face mask concept proposes using an air-curtain instead of a physical filter… and it just might work

Using air to cut off potentially virally infected air sounds a lot like fire fighting fire, but there just might be some truth to it all. Air curtains are undoubtedly effective at creating an invisible barrier that keeps cold air inside an air-conditioned room from mixing with the hot air outside a room. When correctly installed, an air curtain actually saves energy in the long run by providing an essentially open entrance that allows people to pass through but prevents outside air from mixing with inside air (and potentially putting a higher load on your ACs), and it essentially even prevents mosquitoes from passing through too. So if an air curtain can create a very effective air barrier with large spaces, why can’t that technology be scaled down to work on your face too?

What this conceptual face mask proposes isn’t too far-fetched, honestly. Scientists are actually researching the viability of using air curtains to effectively ‘deactivate’ the coronavirus. If successful, maybe that face mask you’re currently wearing goes the way of the dinosaurs, as everyone essentially begins wearing fans on their foreheads that push filtered air towards your face, and keep bad air out.

In this research paper, physicists Alexander S. Sakharov and Konstantin Zhukov even propose a similar head-worn air curtain that essentially cuts off external air flow for the wearer without the discomfort of a fabric or N95 mask pressed against their faces. At least for the aerosol-based transmission of the coronavirus, an air curtain can be reasonably effective at pushing away particles (both from outside as well as from the wearer) to prevent proximal viral transmission… all while still allowing the wearer to breathe air comfortably.

The Airable is, at least on paper, a rather slim AR-headset-shaped device with air vents on the forehead facing downwards, and a clear plastic visor to prevent the gust of wind from blowing directly in your eyes. One could easily imagine that the Airable has a built-in filter of its own, which ensures that the air curtain only blows pure air (another research paper debates the use of ionized air to kill viruses instantly). Sounds pretty great on paper, and I definitely hope a team of designers and engineers are building or prototyping such a device. Unless the folks at Dyson could come up with a solution, my only concern is the overwhelming noise most air curtains currently make.

Airable is a winner of the Red Dot Design Concept Award for the year 2021.

Designers: Kim Seulgee, Ko Sungchan, Lee Wonho, Park Hyein

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Every one of these WFH furniture pieces includes a secret feature to keep your work and life separate

Every piece of Taku Yahara’s line of WFH furniture reveals a dual function or hidden compartment that’s designed to keep work and life balanced.

When working from home, the conditions have to be prime. Whether you’re working from the patio or the kitchen, the mood has to be just right. It’s no surprise most of us went straight to the drawing boards to transform our bedrooms into hybrid working spaces after WFH orders went into place. Helping move the process along, Taku Yahara designed a line of versatile pieces of office furniture to keep our working and living spaces separate, making WFH that much more comfortable.

When designing his line of WFH furniture, Yahara looked first to versatility. Equipping most of his pieces of furniture with dual features and hidden compartments, Yahara wanted to ensure work and life could remain balanced even when working from home. The Mobility Desk, for example, is a portable desk that can transform into an inconspicuous storage basin when the workday is finished.

In its initial form, the Mobility Desk is a narrow wooden storage bin and then transforms into a drop-front desk for working. Keeping the design work to a minimum, the Mobility Desk is stripped down to its barest form to emphasize its accessibility. Then, Yahara conceptualized a router box with convenience at the forefront of his design.

Since finding good WiFi is the number one priority when working from home, Yahara developed the router box at an appropriate height to ensure open access throughout the day, from anywhere in the house.

For work-on-the-go, Yahara designed a desk work bag that functions as a carrying case for all of our office supplies as well as a storage bin for the desk. Rigid by design, the desk work bag can be carried with little to no fuss and then remain in place on the desk. Finally, an extended drawer can turn any table into a working desk. Softened with a leather top, the extended drawer reveals an additional storage bin for office supplies.

Designer: Taku Yahara

The desk work bag can remain in place on top of the actual desk or hang from a table edge with accessory hooks. 

With an integrated secret drawer, the extended desk functions as a working space and storage basin.

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This trash-collecting design is a hand-operated multifunctional trolley that helps sort your recycling!

Brolley is a hand-operated trolley that was designed to aid in waste management practices, which have increased following shipping demands brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transportation appliances like wheelbarrows and dolly carts were first designed to streamline manual labor tasks. Transporting heavy boxes from Point A to Point B becomes a lot more manageable when something is carrying the load for you.

Since their initial prototypes were put to use, hand-operated transportation trolleys have seen many forms and iterations. Today, Dosam Choi launched Brolley, a modern take on the handheld trolley cart that specifically aids in recycling delivery waste such as cardboard boxes and styrofoam peanuts.

Consolidated into a single product, Brolley consists of six elements: a broom, dustpan, trash compartment, storage area, box holder, and hook. Modular by design, Brolley disassembles piece by piece depending on each user’s need.

Held together by powerful magnetic strips, the broom detaches from the whole of Brolley to provide a means for sweeping residue from packaged goods into the product’s integrated dustpan. From there, users can store the swept-up waste in the trash compartment located on the outside of Brolley’s round base.

Once the user opens their delivered goods and is left with empty cardboard boxes, a handy storage area provides just the right amount of space for the folded boxes to nestle inside on the way to the steel trash cart.

Stray residue, like netted or cloth bags, can hang from Brolley’s built-in hook or be stuffed inside the compartment with the trash collected in the dustpan. Conceptualized in an array of different colors, Choi saw that Brolley would fit into any modern home.

Designer: Dosam Choi

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This futuristic Polestar automotive design is the solution to every modern nomad’s wanderlust!

Polestar is a futuristic, luxury travel concept designed out of the modern nomad’s need for unrestricted traveling and socializing.

While COVID-19 is still making its rounds, from the pandemic, we’ve learned that time spent in nature and connecting with other humans are priorities of everyday life. Holed up in our tiny apartments, all we want is to kick down the door and run to the nearest lakeshore or mountaintop.

With travel restrictions making it near impossible to come and go as we please, designers have worked on solutions for autonomous travel. 21-year-old designer Kang Sik Park conceptualized an aerial automobile that can also float on water to bring groups of people to faraway places where they can take in nature and enjoy a futuristic concept of vacation.

Dubbed Polestar, Kang Sik Park envisioned their futuristic automobile dressed in an optic white aluminum-like facade, which is accented with strips of sleek black metal for a refined touch. Symmetrical on all sides, the exterior of Polestar is used to represent connectivity and the coming together of humans for a shared interest.

Hover blades slide out from the vehicle’s roof to lift Polestar off the ground into the air. Additionally, Park equipped Polestar with progressive technology such as GPS and facial recognition to help modernize the airborne vehicle.

Inside, the same sleek look is maintained and can transform into a warmer, golden-hour-soaked ambiance to appeal to each user’s changing tastes. The Polestar is outfitted with contemporary amenities that are sure to please the modern traveler, such as rotating lounge chairs, food and drink services, as well as panoramic windows to provide plenty of views of the natural world.

Designer: Kang Sik Park

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This door latch attachment is a great COVID-time invention, providing a safe, hands-free way of opening doors!

The Safe Lever Door Opener is a hands-free door opener designed for commercial settings like restaurants, doctor’s offices, and workplaces.

The output of mechanical aid devices that have come out in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of design when it intersects with health industries. When disaster strikes, designers pick up the pieces and build solutions. Doors have been a touchy subject for many throughout the pandemic–no one wants to touch a germ-ridden door handle. That’s why Dominic Spooner of Ember Design House created the Safe Lever Door Opener.

While various, innovative door-opening solutions have come out in recent years, like hands-free foot-door openers, they don’t work for every door type. Specifically, commercial settings like office buildings and doctor’s offices could benefit from door openers designed for door lever latches. Walking through office buildings and medical rooms, the doors are made for privacy above all else.

With this in mind, opening doors in commercial settings requires a bit more effort. The Safe Lever Door Opener works on lever latches by clipping to the door handle’s horizontal bar to provide a hands-free opening mechanism. The Safe Lever Door Opener comes with a bolstered area where users can place their forearms to unhinge the door’s lock and open the door.

Equipped with all the material necessary for setup, the Safe Lever Door Opener can be attached and fastened within five minutes. Inspired by his own hands-free method of opening doors, the team behind the Safe Lever Door Opener suggests, “It is time to eliminate that pain point safely, reliably, and affordably across restaurants, offices, schools, government buildings, and anywhere there are lever doors.”

Designer: Dominic Spooner and Ember Design House

Equipped with all necessary material for assembly, the Safe Lever Door Opener is your no-fuss door-opening solution.

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