Social distancing: how technology can keep you from getting too close to comfort

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The closings may start to loosen, but it looks like the social distance is going to be with us for a lot longer – and it's not easy.

Fortunately, technology can help, and not always in the most obvious way. Some companies are already developing apps and devices to make it easier to stay away from others (whether you're at work or in public), but there are also many tools already available that you can use to protect yourself and others. other.


If you're used to meeting up with a gym buddy, a tennis partner, or a running club, working solo is just not the same thing, but there are other options. Zwift recently made some improvements to its Meetup function, which allows you to organize a virtual race with your real friends. You can set a time and invite up to 100 people to join a bimble around one of the virtual worlds of the application: Innsbruck, London, New York, Richmond, Yorkshire or Watopia.

Each runner will have an avatar in the app and will be able to chat and interact while hitting the treadmill at home.

In addition to a treadmill, all runners will need a Zwift RunPod (a small cadence sensor that attaches to your shoe) and the Zwift app. It works best on a tablet – in our experience, it's a bit difficult on a phone, especially when you're running, and it's hard to keep your hand steady to tap the screen.


(Image credit: Zwift)

Certain sports lend themselves more easily to social distancing. It is possible to play golf while distancing yourself from society, for example, and many courses are still open to business, but it is not a simple endeavor. You will have to disinfect your clubs, avoid using trolleys (they are difficult to clean thoroughly), stay away from the changing rooms and do not touch any flags.

If it's too complicated, or if you prefer not to take the risk, Golf Club VR is well worth the detour. It is adapted from the original Golf Club simulator and, with a HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or Valve Index VR headset, is surprisingly immersive. Some dedicated golfers have even experimented with their VR controllers and adapted them using real golf club handles.

Slinger bag

(Image credit: Slinger)

Tennis is less suited to virtual reality, but you can use your time in isolation to work on your skills. What better way to celebrate the end of the lockdown than to find your friends and absolutely beat them in tennis?

Tennis ball throwers have been around for years, but high-quality ones (for training rather than playing with your dog) are generally bulky, heavy, and difficult to handle on their own.

The Slinger Bag is an alternative that can be put in place by one person in a few minutes. It can hold and fire 72 balls, and is designed as a lightweight rolling suitcase so you can easily carry it around the field without anyone helping you. There is a telescopic tube to pick up the balls when you are finished.

When it's time to stock up on supplies, ordering groceries online may be the easiest option, but only if you can secure a delivery window.

If you have to go to the store yourself, one of the easiest ways to avoid getting too close is to take a look at Google's popular weather graph (accessible via Google or Maps search). ) to see when it’s likely Be quiet.

Google Popular Times Graph

(Image credit: Google)

Most of the data used to create these graphs will have been collected before the lock started, so it won't necessarily be completely accurate, but it should still give you a good idea of ​​when the queues are likely to be most short.

At work

Working from home is the easiest way to keep your distance from others, but there are many situations where it just isn't possible. Safe Spacer is a laptop designed for the workplace where you will be traveling, avoiding colleagues and visitors.

If you are about to get too close for more comfort, the device will alert you with a flashing light, a vibration or an audible alarm. It can also record all accidental contacts between people, although no data other than the device ID and proximity is stored.

Space Spacer

(Image credit: IK Multimedia)

It can be worn as a watch, on a lanyard or kept in a pocket, and since it is waterproof, it can be easily disinfected at the end of the day.

Safe Spacer will be available for purchase later this year for $ 99.99 (approximately £ 80 / AU $ 150) each, with discounts for organizations purchasing a bundle. One for small business owners to consider.

In the park

Safe Spacer is a great idea for workplaces, but only works if everyone is wearing one. If you want to go for a walk (and local rules allow it) while keeping your distance from others, Strava offers an unusual helping hand. Strava Global Heatmap shows the streets that are most popular with app users (the busiest, the hottest), so by plotting a route that avoids them, you are less likely to end up weaving around people.

As with Google's graphics, the map uses data collected over several months, so it doesn't necessarily reflect the current situation, but should always give you a good guide to the busiest and quietest streets.

Strava Heatmap

(Image credit: Strava)

Of course there may be reasons why some of these routes are less traveled (e.g. lack of suitable road surface), so it would be wise to check the terrain configuration using Google Street View before leaving if you are not familiar with the area.

It can be easy to forget the distance when enjoying the fresh air, which is why Singapore officials have chosen to bring the robot on all fours from Boston Dynamics Spot to use the patrol parks. The robot (currently under test) is remotely controlled by an operator who checks how far people are standing and broadcasts pre-recorded messages reminding people not to become too comfortable.

It's a good idea, but being watched by a robot is rather annoying – and not too effective when the sheer novelty makes people get together and take pictures. A robot that struts in a park is much more interesting than anything you will probably see when isolating yourself.


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