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.
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Adaptation Has a Long Way to Go<p>The Adaptation Gap Report, now in its 5th year, finds "huge gaps" between what world leaders agreed to do under the 2015 <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/5-years-paris-climate-agreement/a-55901139" target="_blank">Paris Agreement</a> and what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from climate change.</p><p>A review by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative of almost 1,700 examples of climate adaptation found that a third were in the early stages of implementation — and only 3% had reached the point of reducing risks.</p><p>Disasters like storms and droughts have grown stronger than they should be because people have warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. The world has heated by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and is on track to warm by about 3°C by the end of the century.</p><p>If world leaders <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-performance-index-how-far-have-we-come/a-55846406" target="_blank">deliver on recent pledges</a> to bring emissions to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/joe-bidens-climate-pledges-are-they-realistic/a-56173821" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">net-zero</a> by the middle of the century, they could almost limit warming to 2°C. The target of the Paris Agreement, however, is to reach a target well below that — ideally 1.5°C. </p><p>There are two ways, scientists say, to lessen the pain that warming will bring: mitigating climate change by cutting carbon pollution and adapting to the hotter, less stable world it brings.</p>
The Cost of Climate Adaptation<p>About three-quarters of the world's countries have national plans to adapt to climate change, according to the report, but most lack the regulations, incentives and funding to make them work.</p><p>More than a decade ago, rich countries most responsible for climate change pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poorer countries. UNEP says it is "impossible to answer" whether that goal has been met, while an OECD study published in November found that between 2013 and 2018, the target sum had not once been achieved. Even in 2018, which recorded the highest level of contributions, rich countries were still $20 billion short.</p><p>The yearly adaptation costs for developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to at least double by the end of the decade as temperatures rise, and will hit $280-500 billion by 2050, according to the report.</p><p>But failing to adapt is even more expensive.</p><p>When powerful storms like cyclones Fani and Bulbul struck South Asia, early-warning systems allowed governments to move millions of people out of danger at short notice. Storms of similar strength that have hit East Africa, like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/zimbabwe-after-cyclone-idai-building-climate-friendly-practices/a-54251885" target="_blank">cyclones Idai</a> and Kenneth, have proved more deadly because fewer people were evacuated before disaster struck.</p><p>The Global Commission on Adaptation estimated in 2019 that a $1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, buildings, agriculture, mangroves and water resources could reap $7.1 trillion in benefits from economic activity and avoided costs when disasters strike.</p>
Exploring Nature-Based Solutions<p>The report also highlights how restoring nature can protect people from climate change while benefiting local communities and ecology.</p><p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-fires-risk-climate-change-bushfires-australia-california-extreme-weather-firefighters/a-54817927" target="_blank">Wildfires</a>, for instance, could be made less punishing by restoring grasslands and regularly burning the land in controlled settings. Indigenous communities from Australia to Canada have done this for millennia in a way that encourages plant growth while reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. Reforestation, meanwhile, can stop soil erosion and flooding during heavy rainfall while trapping carbon and protecting wildlife.</p><p>In countries like Brazil and Malaysia, governments could better protect coastal homes from floods and storms by restoring <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mudflats-mangroves-and-marshes-the-great-coastal-protectors/a-50628747" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mangroves</a> — tangled trees that grow in tropical swamps. As well as anchoring sediments and absorbing the crash of waves, mangroves can store carbon, help fish populations grow and boost local economies through tourism. </p><p>While nature-based solutions are often cheaper than building hard infrastructure, their funding makes up a "tiny fraction" of adaptation finance, the report authors wrote. An analysis of four global climate funds that spent $94 billion on adaptation projects found that just $12 billion went to nature-based solutions and little of this was spent implementing projects on the ground.</p><p>But little is known about their long-term effectiveness. At higher temperatures, the effects of climate change may be so great that they overwhelm natural defenses like mangroves.</p><p>By 2050, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rising-sea-levels-should-we-let-the-ocean-in-a-50704953/a-50704953" target="_blank">coastal floods</a> that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to a 2019 report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard on climate science. This could force dense cities on low-lying coasts to build higher sea walls, like in Indonesia and South Korea, or evacuate entire communities from sinking islands, like in Fiji.</p><p>It's not a case of replacing infrastructure, said Matthias Garschagen, a geographer at Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and IPCC author, who was not involved in the UNEP report. "The case for nature-based solutions is often misinterpreted as a battle... but they're part of a toolkit that we've ignored for too long."</p>
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