Driving to work at his factory to the west of London last week, designer Steve Brooks had coronavirus on his mind. What could he make that would let him open a door without touching the handle?
“Everyone has to use their little finger or find the bit of the door that nobody’s touched,” said the designer and owner at DDB Ltd, a company which makes office furniture. So he produced a hook to do the job.
The so-called hygienehook is small enough to fit in a pocket and made from a non-porous material, which makes it easy to clean. It is one of hundreds of gadgets dreamt up in recent days and weeks to help prevent people from spreading the coronavirus.
From furniture makers to AI software developers, companies around the world are adapting existing products or inventing new ones to help fight the pandemic or just make life easier for those working from home, in hospitals or stuck in quarantine.
The flurry of innovation comes as companies from Ford and Airbus to luxury goods giant LVMH retool plants to make critical equipment like hand sanitizers, ventilators and masks.
In years gone by it was large companies like these, with the financial clout and factories, who typically had to be relied upon to move rapidly from designing a prototype to manufacturing the product.
A crucial difference now, though, is that 3D printing and high-tech software mean devices can be produced faster than ever by companies big and small.
“There is definitely a ton of people with 3D resources very willing to help,” said MacKenzie Brown, founder of California-based product design company CAD Crowd.
Two weeks ago, his company launched a month-long contest for practical devices for navigating the new coronavirus world.
About 65 entries have poured in, including a wrist-mounted disinfectant sprayer, half gloves for knuckle-pushing of buttons and a device that lets you open car doors without touching the handle, aimed at cab users.
As the pandemic makes people far more aware of hygiene, some new products may have a shelf life beyond the current crisis.
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