It’s a hazmat suit for the urban commuter. And even though it’s just a concept, it can’t be
realized soon enough. Chinese developers have come up with what they believe is the
next fashion accessory for the urban commuter.
As more people across the globe contract coronavirus. The World Health Organization
has updated its global risk assessment of the virus from “high” to “very high.”
Thousands of people have died, while major industries have been disrupted in the
virus’s wake. And in China, where coronavirus struck first, major city centers
have become ghost towns as both public fears and government quarantines keep
people at home.
Is there any way to live your life with any sense of normalcy as an epidemic like the
coronavirus spreads? Chinese architect Dayong Sun believes, maybe. The founder of
the firm Penda has developed a concept for a wearable shield, which, he says, could be
deployed at the mass scale during epidemics.
Called “Be a Batman”, the system is inspired in part by the natural world and in part by
the built environment. Sun notes that bats may be a source of the coronavirus outbreak,
yet they seem immune to its attacks. Their bodies get hot while flying, allowing them to
fight off the virus through natural activity rather than a fever.
For the coronavirus shield, Sun has constructed a lightweight system, loosely similar to
the lightweight wings that allow bats to fly. Users don a backpack with carbon fiber
skeleton frame. They hold a PVC film, which wraps around them like a jet cockpit, or
In some architectural philosophy, the building is considered a third skin. (A person’s skin
is the first skin. A person’s clothes are the second skin.) Sun views the PVC shield as a
wearable building, which creates a physical barrier between you and viruses that might
be flying at your body. For added protection, UV lights sterilize the surface of the plastic.
The suit is not airtight, but it does follow some best practices in epidemic response.
Even real hazmat suits are often shielded more from the front than back, prioritizing
head-on assaults simply because our eyes and mouths are the most susceptible
gateways to infections. Covid-19 is not something you can catch simply by breathing the same air as someone who is infected. So while it’s not airtight, at minimum, “Be a
Batman” keeps your hands to yourself, inside your own vehicle at all times.
As a larger-term goal, Sun believes the PVC could have a full augmented reality
interface, per what he loosely calls “a tiny mobile space for special needs”—which I
imagine to be like a little office cubicle you can carry with you. Personally having been a
commuter in some of the major cities in the world and contested with urban metro and
underground systems this is an idea from someone who has never experienced rush
hour in London – it’s never going to catch on!