May 20th, 2020

Innovations That Matter – Episode 01

As designers, we’re intensely curious about innovations of all kinds, and even more so when human ingenuity is borne out of sudden change. We decided to lend our expertise in highlighting and evaluating promising innovations borne out of the COVID-19 crisis. In this series, we’ll be using 3 different categories to rate these exciting ideas. First will be innovation, or how new or disruptive the idea is. Next, we’ll look at feasibility to check how realistic the idea actually is in practice. Finally, will be scalability, to see how capable an idea is to reach a wide audience.

In this episode of Innovations That Matter, we review:
1. Visit Faroe Island’s Guided Tour [Link]
2. Rice University Students Design A $300 Ventilator [Link]
3. 12-year-old Canadian Scout Helps Solve Mask Crisis [Link]

Find more COVID-19 insights here.


Hi everyone. This is David Bulfin, senior designer at BOLTGROUP, and welcome to today’s edition of “Innovations That Matter”, where we explore, analyze, and rank great ideas that are creatively responding to COVID-19. So, let’s get into it.

A new virtual tourism experiment taking place in the Faroe Islands recently caught our attention. What they’re doing is to promote people seeing the beautiful nature that’s outside. rather than set up a webcam, they’ve actually set up a person. The person wears a helmet-mounted camera, and is basically given instructions via a mobile app for them to look around, walk around, or even climb. For Innovation this gets a 3 out of 5 because it’s definitely new and novel, but we think there’s some areas that could definitely be fleshed out just a little bit better. For feasibility, however, this gets a perfect 5 out of 5 because the system seems to work pretty well. Tourists from around the world have been logging on and the tour guides have actually been having a lot of fun. For scalability on the inverse side of things, it really only gets a 1 out of 5 from us. We have some concerns as to what happens when competing users potentially log on and steer direction away from a single tour guide in more than one direction.

A group of students and Educators at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen associated with Rice University have done something really incredible. They figured out a way to create a ventilator for just about three hundred dollars. They’ve accomplished this by leveraging a lot of off-the-shelf components, and using components in new ways that people haven’t really thought of before. This includes a BVM, or a bag valve mask, which is a common first aid device that First Responders use. These devices are available all over the place, and so they’re easy to find, and their system is a way to motorize and leverage those technologies in a way that’s really new and unique. For Innovation, we’re going to give this a 5 out of 5 because it’s an incredibly clever way to use some of the things that are already available while we’re in this crisis when ventilators are scarce and in need. For feasibility, it’s also going to get a 4 out of 5 because the system seems to work really well it uses an Arduino control board to operate, and as I said before, most of the components are off the shelf. For scalability, we think there’s some more potential to be had here. Today we’re going to rank it a 3 out of 5 mostly because it’s created by fabricated means, and using a lot of laser cutting, but we can easily see this transition to something that would be mass manufacturable. Really, really exciting.

Quinn Callandar is a 12-year-old Canadian Boy Scout that’s come up with a really clever way to help make masks a little bit more comfortable, seeing as how we’re wearing them every day. What he’s devised is a clever, 3D-printed device that actually creates a series of hooks that rests on the back of your head to take the elastic ear loops away from your ears, making it more comfortable. For Innovation, we’re going to give this idea a 4 out of 5 because it’s just a really clever way to make these masks a little bit more ergonomic, and a little bit more friendly. For feasibility, this gets a 5 out of 5 because the concept is being proven already, and the devices are being used by people across the world even today. However, for scalability, only because it’s 3D printed in small quantities today, we’re going to give this a 2 out of 5, but we believe that that could easily change to a 5 out of 5 score later should it be scaled properly and appropriately.

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