They're sewing face masks, 3D-printing ventilator valves, converting snorkeling gear into respirators, and crowdsourcing research into diagnosis and treatment. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all across the world people who are locked in their homes are still organizing in novel ways that may have a lasting impact on culture and society well after this crisis fades.
In communities around the globe, people are pooling resources and providing assistance to neighbors in need—a throwback to the mutual aid societies that acted as a social safety net before the rise of the welfare state.
They're relying on shared documents like the Coronavirus Tech Handbook, which started out as a one-page shared Google Doc just weeks ago and has grown into one of the largest and most widely used online libraries of tools in the fight against the virus. The internationally crowdsourced compilation of tips, guidelines, and resources has thousands of users and active projects.
As the severe shortage of personal protective equipment became apparent, home sewing networks sprung into action to make improvised face masks. Schools, businesses, and hobbyists have turned their 3D printers into micro-factories for medical equipment. A team out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently released specs for a $100 mechanical ventilator, and technologists around the world are building on each other's open-source data and plans. Other DIYers are developing diagnostic tools that require no physical testing kits, such as by analyzing voice samples that people record on their phones.
The 2020s may be off to a rough start, but efforts such as these show the potential for technology and human ingenuity to empower individuals in the coming decade, even when they're sitting on their couches.
Produced, written, and edited by Justin Monticello
Music: "consciousness hacker" by el_vis, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license; "Newsroom" by Riot; "Third Time" by Jingle Punks; "Diamond Knight" and "Hurry Up" by Silent Partner; "Critter Cruise" by Matt Harris
Photos: Jo Prusa posing in 3D-printed face shield, Jo Prusa; 3D-printed face shield, Stratasys; 3D-printed door handles and PEEP masks, Materialise; 3D-printed valves, Cristian Fracassi; 3D-printed respirators, CIIRC; 3D-printed test swabs, Formlabs; 3D-printed Charlotte/other valves, CRP Technology; 3D-printed adapter, Northwell Health; 3D printers at Cochin hospital, BONE3D; Stopgap Face Mask, 3D Systems; Isinnova posing with valves, Isinnova; Photocentric 3D-printed valves, Photocentric; Face mask in 3D printer, Roboze; St. Barnabas face shields, iMakr; BCN3D face shields, BCN3D; VESper ventilation expansion splitter, Prisma Health; Manual ventilator converted to automatic, UC San Diego; AON3D printing face shields, McGill University; Leitat field respirator, IAM3DHUB; Fast Radius face shield, Fast Radius; Mutual aid in Milan (3), Claudio Furlan/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mutual aid in St. Petersburg, Alexander Demianchuk/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mutual aid in Moscow (2), Vyacheslav Prokofyev/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Man using phone in Ethiopia, Caro / Trappe/Newscom; Man using phone in Algeria, Oscar Carrascosa Martinez/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom; Man on couch, Jo Kirchherr/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom; Woman on couch, VITTA GALLERY/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom; Man in mask on phone in Lima, SOPA Images/Miguel Angel Valero / SOPA Image/Newscom; Homeless man using phone in Pasadena, Keith Birmingham/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Girl using phone in Nairobi, Donwilson Odhiambo / SOPA Images/Newscom; Woman on phone in Sochi, Vladimir Smirnov/TASS/Sipa USA/Newscom; Woman on phone in Changchun, Wang Haofei Xinhua News Agency/Newscom; Woman on phone in Ethiopia, Caro / Trappe/Newscom.