Coronavirus Outbreak Spurs Unexpected Tech Boom
The novel coronavirus, more precisely known as COVID-19, looms on front pages all over the world as people scramble to deal with the worsening pandemic in their area. It could even be said that there’s been a “viral” response to the outbreak — one resulting in a push for both businesses and government to protect and serve while individuals seek to sterilize their home environments. But besides the obvious explosion of toilet paper and hand sanitizer sales, the virus is also helping a few other businesses score financially in ways that were previously unexpected.
Most notably, these tech products and services have seen a surge in the middle of the corona frenzy:
This is a big one. Already common across Europe and a popular choice for individuals looking to act more sustainably by using less toilet paper, bidet sales have skyrocketed during this time of toilet paper insecurity.
You always have to be careful when buying an air purifier, as companies have been known to make all kinds of unsubstantiated claims regarding the effectiveness of their products in cutting down the spread of coronavirus. The truth seems to be that while businesses and airplanes are likely equipped with high capacity, efficient air purifiers, most home models are unlikely to help contain the disease.
Also exploding as social distancing becomes the norm are systems that support remote business like Zoom and Skype. After all, virtual meetings allow business to continue mostly as usual while employees work from home. Naturally, software and hardware companies everywhere are benefiting while setting up large conferences on a remote format.
In a somewhat futuristic move, airports and other high-population areas have started incorporating thermal scanning tech into their existing security systems. The idea is that a body scan can help identify people with elevated temperatures, which could indicate a fever. One company, ThirdEye, claims their augmented reality glasses can be fitted to include this feature so workers can scan people hands-free. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the company now plans to fill orders to ship more than 2,000 pairs of glasses in the coming months.
Electrostatic Spray Guns
You may have never heard of them, but in light of these intensive new germ control efforts, you’ll likely start seeing them everywhere pretty soon. Think of them as an upgrade to the classic spray cleaner bottle, with charged particles that ensure complete coverage of every surface they’re used on. While spray guns are already commonly used in larger spaces like schools and transit stations, some companies are starting to receive 100 times the order requests for a typical flu season, and many others are considering them for residential use.
Robots and public crises seem to go hand in hand, with some capable of death-defying feats like defusing bombs and others that can make deliveries or provide camera footage in dangerous situations. Now, robots are being called on once again to gather information and help diagnose cases of COVID-19. For example, the Philadelphia-based company Promobot recently deployed one of its robots in New York City’s Times Square and Bryant Park, enticing passerby to complete a quiz to see if they had any the symptoms of the coronavirus. According to the company, these efforts generated interest from an airport, a museum, and other “crowded places” soon after.
Look, we’re all isolated and seeking entertainment, and in addition to blowing through the newest Hulu and Netflix lineups, its pretty hard to resist the allure of online gaming. With a surge of screen time at their disposal, players are paying for gaming services and buying software at an unprecedented rate, and companies are rushing to meet the demand by pushing several new games into development. The University of Washington has even updated an old puzzle game called FoldIt to give players an opportunity to solve the coronavirus problem.
“Coronaviruses display a ‘spike’ protein on their surface, which binds tightly to a receptor protein found on the surface of human cells,” explains the puzzle brief. “Once the coronavirus spike binds to the human receptor, the virus can infect the human cell and replicate. In recent weeks, researchers have determined the structure of the 2019 coronavirus spike protein and how it binds to human receptors. If we can design a protein that binds to this coronavirus spike protein, it could be used to block the interaction with human cells and halt infection!”
The most promising ideas submitted by players will be tested and possibly even manufactured by the university’s Institute for Protein Design in Seattle. “We want to give FoldIt players the opportunity to design proteins that can bind to the spike protein and prevent infection,” explains FoldIt scientist Brian Koepnick in a recent update video.
Distillery-Made Hand Sanitizer
Many distilleries are beginning to fill the hand sanitizer void by making their own. Once the alcohol is made, it’s a swift leap to hand sanitizer production. Most are making it available with purchase in spaces that are still open to the public, but it could make for an easy and quick way to provide the product to the medical community should the need arise.