From Dining Pods to See-Through Masks: 6 Helpful Inventions During the Pandemic
By Harry Kretchmer
It's more than five months since Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak began, went into lockdown marking the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions.
In that time, there have been many innovative ideas to help us live with the virus and return to work and leisure safely.
The World Economic Forum's crowdsourcing platform UpLink is looking for the best solutions around the world to tackle today's most pressing issues.
Here are six areas of everyday life where inventions are easing the challenges posed by the pandemic.
1. Dining Out
At the height of the lockdown, retail analysts, Kantar, studied social media for clues about what people were most looking forward to doing when lockdowns were eased. The top three desires included eating out and going to a bar with friends.
Social activities are top of people's wish lists after lockdown. Kantar
But with social distancing measures in place for such businesses, attention has turned to how to keep customers safe and inspire trust.
French designer Christophe Gernigon has created oversized transparent lampshades, allowing diners to eat in a personal bubble. The 'PLEX'EAT' prototypes are made from perspex.
In the Netherlands, Amsterdam's ETEN restaurant has also been making dining safer. On the banks of a canal it has installed glass houses to protect dining companions, and help with social distancing.
Meanwhile in South Korea, popular watering holes are devising more hi-tech ways to protect patrons: robot bartenders.
One - named 'Cabo' can carve a perfect spherical ice ball for whisky 'on the rocks.' Another can measure out cocktail liquor from 25 bottles hanging from the ceiling.
Grocery shopping boomed during the pandemic, with much of the growth coming from online - a service relied on by many of those shielding from the virus.
But many of those most at risk from COVID-19 are still wary of coming into stores, in part because of the possibility of the virus living on surfaces which are frequently touched - like the handle on a fridge door.
A Finnish supermarket created an innovative solution - long, curved handles that allow customers to open chiller cabinets with their clothed arms instead of hands.
Masks are mandatory - and essential - in many settings, especially on public transport and in shops. However, for those who are deaf, they can cause a real problem: they cover lips, making it impossible to lip-read.
This was the experience of a deaf tailor from Indonesia who faced a daily struggle with new regulations mandating mask wearing in public places.
Her solution is brilliantly simple: she has created masks with a clear plastic window over the mouth - making it possible to lip-read once again.
Another communication innovation takes the form of a robot. 'Pepper' is a humanoid robot who can be found at a Tokyo hotel. But it is no ordinary hotel: its patients are those who have mild coronavirus symptoms.
Pepper's job is to greet patients as they arrive - making them feel welcome, but also protecting - and freeing up - staff.
Some of the most creative solutions have come from the world of robotics.
Refugees at the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan have developed a LEGO robot that automatically dispenses hand sanitizer - reducing the risk of infection.
Elsewhere, robots are cleaning all kinds of surfaces. Meet "Ugo," the remote-controlled robot developed by Japanese start-up Mira Robotics.
It uses ultraviolet light to kill viruses, and can patrol buildings and clean on its own.
5. Home Deliveries
"We definitely see this trend continuing with more and more people embracing delivery robots. Not everybody wants t… https://t.co/P1uvFGe8Ac— Starship (@Starship)1592818645.0
Around the world, robots are being enlisted to help with deliveries of food.
U.S. start-up Starship Technologies is rolling out its food delivery boxes on wheels to a range of urban areas, from Milton Keynes, England to Fairfax, Virginia.
Colombian start-up Rappi is another company whose boxy wheeled robots have moved onto the pavements in greater numbers during the pandemic.
6. Social Distancing
At the heart of most nations' public health strategies to fight COVID-19 is effective social distancing. But sometimes people need to be reminded. Singapore has chosen a robot for this task.
Made by U.S. company Boston Dynamics, 'Spot' patrols the park and reminds visitors to maintain social distancing: "Let's keep Singapore healthy. For your own safety, and for those around you, please stand at least one meter apart. Thank you."
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
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