Last year, the Gates Foundation held a competition to redesign the toilet. Turning its sights from sanitation to overpopulation, the nonprofit has now announced a challenge to reinvent the condom. By way of the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program, a grant of $100,000 will be awarded to those who develop the next generation of personal protection. The contest hopes to encourage the use of the simple, life-saving technology by making the latex prophylactic more fun, pleasurable, and attractive to couples around the globe.
Condoms date back to the 16th century when the Italian physician Gabriele Falloppio used linen soaked in chemicals to prevent syphilis. Over the coming centuries, the material evolved from cloth and animal intestines to rubber and finally latex. Since the 1920’s, condom technology has changed very little while medicine, material science, and psychology have all seen great advancements.
The Gates Foundation is hoping that a new modern design and packaging revamp will help to overcome the obstacle of men seeing condoms as interfering with the pleasure of sex. Their aim is to “significantly preserve or enhance pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use,” and they already have their sights on some new alternatives to the traditional ribs, contours, and lubricants that Trojan and Durex have been pushing for decades.
To get an idea of what kind of innovations they are after, just take a look at ORIGAMI Condoms, three silicone versions for men, women, and one specially designed for receptive anal sex. The male condom is shaped like an accordion, and is the first non-rolled injected-molded silicone condom to be patented. Intended to create direct internal sensation, the new model is meant to increase pleasure so that they are used on a more consistent basis. In a separate example, bioengineers at the University of Washington are working on a super-fine cloth that slowly releases spermicides and anti-HIV drugs.
By making the condom more desirable, the Gates Foundation hopes to improve public health by reducing the rates of STDs and unwanted pregnancy. As Stephen Ward wrote on the Foundation’s blog, “Quite simply, condoms save lives.” The competition is open to anyone who with a keen interest in bedroom technology who can submit a revolutionary design.