August 24th, 2020

Innovations That Matter – Episode 09

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. Startup Creates Better Seal For Surgical Masks [Link]
2. Restaurant Creates Zipline For Handing Off Orders [Link]
3. NASA / JPL Necklace Helps Stop Face Touching [Link]

Watch Episode 08 here.

Find more COVID-19 insights here.


Hi everyone, I’m David Bulfin, Senior Designer at BOLTGROUP and this is another episode of Innovations That Matter, where we explore, analyze, and rank new and clever solutions that have arisen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wearing a mask is now a vital part of our everyday life. While choosing to put one on is easy, guaranteeing that it fits properly is another matter altogether. While the standard N95 is designed for form a tight seal around the face, most masks available to the average consumer struggle to replicate the ideal fit. Seeing this as an important issue a small team of designers, engineers and marketers felt motivated to found Fix The Mask, a project that seeks to solve the fitment issues experienced with standard surgical masks. Their solution is the mask brace, a stretchy elastic device that fits over top a worn surgical mask to create a safer and more effective seal. The best part, the design is being given away for free and is designed to be created at home from DIY materials. For innovation, we give this design a 5 out of 5. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one. In the case of this design, it could not be any more paired down. This means it’s simple to understand, simple to make and simple to use. Well done! For feasibility we are also giving the mask brace design a 5 out of 5. Our team was encouraged to see some thoughtful considerations being made beyond the novelty of the idea itself. The team at Fix The Mask seems to have done their homework, by focusing on testing their solution before distributing it online. Lastly on scalability, this work gets a 5 out of 5 as well. By making the design open source and offering the plans as a free download, the team effectively bypasses all the typical challenges of production and distribution. If you want one, they provide the information so you can make own right away.

Our next innovation involves another example of homemade cunning. A fried chicken joint in New Orleans has recently become a subject of fascination as they unveiled a clever way to deliver their takeout orders in a way that takes social distancing to the next level. The team at McHardy’s Chicken erected a clothesline-esque contraption that acts like a zip line to hand off bags of hot food to customers waiting outside. Their pulley system means employees and customers get to do business in a way that safe and easy, eliminating the sometimes awkward hand off point when to go orders are picked up. For innovation our team gives distanced fried chicken delivery a 5 out of 5. We think the people at McHardy’s have invented something not only truly unique, but also truly relevant. In our opinion, this device represents a solid prototype of what could be an excellent product for others in food service. On feasibility, this design gets a 4 out 5 score from out team. The zip line itself could easily be the first iteration of a broader, more refined system. We’d love to see how a creation like this could expand into something that manages multiple orders and multiple individuals simultaneously. On scalability, this idea gets a 5 out 5. I would not surprise us if other restaurants began creating copycat installations at their own sites. Outside of restaurants making their own versions themselves, we see a great opportunity for a refined product that could be sold to take out restaurants everywhere.

Coping with the pandemic means many things, including the hassle of retraining ourselves to touch our faces less in order to help reduce our risk of infection. In a lot of ways, the call to try and stop touching our faces has become a powerful illustration of how common and unconscious this behavior is for all of us! The friendly scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs have come up with a new piece of wearable tech that’s designed to give us a hand. Called the Pulse, the device is a wearable electronic pendant that’s worn on a necklace to stop us from touching our faces. The device contains a simple infrared sensor that detects when your hands begin to get close to your head and vibrates to remind you to pause and change your behavior. For innovation our team gives the pulse pendant a 3 out of 5 score. We like the concept a lot, but we wonder what other ways were explored to detect an impending face touch? Could this possibly be transformed into a smart watch app as well? The necklace itself also has an opportunity to be an exciting piece of statement jewelry. Transforming this concept into something even more appealing and attractive could be an exciting next step. On feasibility, the pulse pendant also receives a score of 3 out of 5. Detecting false readings could be a challenge here. We’d be curious to learn more about how the device registers a hand as opposed to something else that gets close to your face. We also wonder in general about battery life. For scalability, this design gets a solid 5 out of 5 score. This device represents another clever example of how the make it yourself method can empower individuals to get their hands on this neat device. If you’re so inclined, the plans to create your own are free and relatively easy to work from, provided you’re comfortable with a little soldering. If the product did ever reach mass manufacturing, it seems nice and straightforward.

That’s all for now. Be sure to check back in as we continue to share new episodes with more innovative designs worth mentioning. Until then, stay safe and we’ll see you next time.

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