The COVID-19 crisis has transformed nearly every aspect of daily life, and in turn, reshuffled our priorities as consumers in both expected and surprising ways.
Smartphone sterilizers that bathe your gadgets in ultraviolet light. Scented hand sanitizers instead of cologne. Birdfeeders that bring the great outdoors to you. The objects that defined a year of lockdown, social distancing and hygiene aren't fleeting. They are here to stay.
What other product knuckleballs will enter the consumer zeitgeist? Here are 21 predictions for life after COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, disinterest in smartwatches and other wearables was a point of pride for many. It was easy to dismiss benefits of this emerging technology as superfluous at best, especially for anyone already struggling to unglue themselves from their smartphones, or not interested in personal fitness.
But the possible positive impact of this technology on our lives could get much tougher to ignore. That's because soon, they might play a crucial role in helping us know when we're getting sick, sometimes days before symptoms manifest. Early findings from a COVID-19 study by Fitbit suggest wearable devices can detect "nearly 50 percent of COVID-19 cases one day before participants reported the onset of symptoms with 70 percent specificity."
Still, it's important to emphasize the tentative nature of these results. Fitbit has submitted this early research for peer review and you can read the current full preprint of manuscript of the findings here.
Fitbit's research findings were encouraging enough though for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) to award the company $2.5 million dollars, paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense, to further investigate using wearables as a diagnostic tool for the early detection of COVID-19.
Face masks have become an essential part of every outfit, even more so now that the CDC has confirmed that they protects wearers as well as those around them. And just as there are garments for every season and activity, there are now face masks built for every occasion.
You don’t need anything fancy for everyday use, but there are a few general rules to follow for narrowing down options. Make sure it covers your nose and mouth, look for fabrics with a tight weave and avoid those with valves.
While there are a bevy of options that meet these requirements, we like Buck Mason’s affordable Anti-Microbial Prevention face mask. It’s made with a silky smooth polyester and rayon blend and features an antimicrobial inner layer for extra protection. It’s everything you need, without anything extra.
For exercising and working out, fitness brands offer high-performance masks designed to keep you comfortable. Under Armour’s UA Sportsmask tackles sweat and condensation using a water-resistant shell with a polyurethane open-cell foam, which blocks moisture from entering while maintaining air flow. The structured shell sits away from the mouth, allowing for better breathability, and the Iso-chill lining keeps the mask cool through the most demanding workouts.
And, if you want a mask with more aesthetic appeal to complement your outfit, the options are dizzying. Diop’s range of eye-catching face masks feature a variety of traditional African prints including indigo-dyed mud cloth and kente cloth. Depending on your wardrobe, they can either support your style or even be a focal point for your entire look.
It's also important to point out that not all types of face coverings are equally effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. An initial study— designed to demonstrate the use of optical imaging for testing droplet spread — suggested that neck gaiters perform poorly at preventing the spread of respiratory droplets. However, a follow-up study conducted by the University of Georgia under more stringent conditions suggests that the number and quality of layers of material used in face coverings plays a bigger role than the shape it takes. CDC research also shows that plexiglass face shields are far less effective at blocking droplets than other forms of popular face coverings. So while the clear and open design might feel less constricting, cloth masks appear to be a much safer option.
Likewise, washing masks regularly is an important step in maintaining their effectiveness. The CDC generally recommends washing reusable masks with the rest of your clothing using regular laundry detergent. But an explosion in new mask designs has complicated the situation. So check out our complete guide to cleaning your face mask for more detailed instructions on washing various types of popular masks.
In the age of virtual conferencing, dress codes are more relaxed — nobody’s expecting you to wear a tie. But that’s no excuse to be unprofessional. A work-ready Zoom shirt is dressier than a polo shirt but more casual than a starched-stiff number. And though there are various options in this intersection, an Oxford-cloth button-down shirt is your best bet.
Gitman Vintage has built a reputation for making some of the best button-downs available, using first-rate fabrics and time-honored details to make its range of shirting. Though it’s hard to go wrong with any of the brand’s shirts, there is some finesse needed when choosing one specifically for the camera. Unless you’ve got studio lighting and a professional camera rig in your apartment, you’ll have to play to your laptop camera’s rules. Most webcams lack the dynamic range and light sensitivity to handle even moderate lighting conditions.
White shirts can appear blown out on camera or make your face look underexposed. Black shirts can have the opposite effect — your face appears blown out while your shirt comes across as a mid-gray. Instead, opt for a shade somewhere in the middle, like navy. It hits the sweet spot between light and dark to play well with most webcams, helping you look your best.
At the onset of COVID-19, there was a shortage of more than just masks. High-quality aftermarket webcams, like Logitech’s 4K Brio, suddenly sold out all across the internet; the few that were available from third-party resellers reached sky-high asking prices. With demand now permanently elevated, retailers’ supplies have increased. But are they worth it?
The gadgets offer an obvious improvement over the laughably poor quality of most laptops’ built-in cameras, as well as the ability to position the camera freely so it isn’t staring at your chin or up your nose.
The tech industry also deserves credit for quickly engineering ways of converting other cameras you might own into webcams. If you're curious about those solutions, dig into our guides below.
When the world plunged into a new work-from-home era, office workers, once spoiled by offices with an ample supply of body-friendly furniture, had to buy their own. Many sought comfort with the likes of Herman Miller, Humanscale and Steelcase, but few companies in the space stir as much intrigue as QOR360 (pronounced “core-three-sixty”).
Where office chairs typically offer support for inactive, stationary bodies, QOR360’s best-selling Ariel is a backless stool that swivels on a patented injection-molded plastic rocker, forcing the sitter to tighten their core for stabilization. In other words, the chair doesn’t encourage active sitting — it demands it. A more comforting idiosyncrasy: you can buy an Ariel for nearly half the cost of a standard, ergo-focused office chair. And it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
UV light has been used in industrial and healthcare settings for some time as an efficient way of sterilizing equipment. Now the technology is quickly making its way to concerned consumers.
The first thing to know about this emerging product category is that only a specific form of ultraviolet light – so-called UVC or Ultraviolet-C Radiation – can kill microbes. The next thing to know is that disinfection processes that use this method require a certain period of prolonged exposure to work effectively. Both of these limitations mean the technology is currently only practical for consumers in limited implementations.
One such effective example are chamber-style devices, which bath your most touched gadgets in microbe-killing ultraviolet light for a set period of time. Thanks to the pandemic, they are no longer the sole domain of the hygiene-devoted specialty brands like PhoneSoap, who pioneered the space. Mophie, one of the leading battery-charging brands, has released a line of chargers with a UV chamber. Samsung has rolled out a UV cleaner as well.
UV-C emitting wands, on the other hand, make much less sense. While they can technically work to disinfect products, there's a much stronger chance of user error compared to chamber-style devices. The World Health Organization also warns against using UVC light to disinfect yourself since it can damage skin cells as well as your eyes. And if this confusion wasn't bad enough, a wave of bad actors touting all kinds of false claims about UV disinfection aren't helping the situation.
That said, the power and usefulness of the technology should continue to drive innovation in the right direction overtime, so that even after the pandemic eventually recedes, cleansing blue light will be standing guard for the next one.
The Facebook Portal launched in 2018, right on the heels of the social network’s monumental Cambridge Analytica data breach that saw the misuse of millions of users’ private data. Understandably, the video-calling device was initially met with widespread skepticism. But by early 2020, the Facebook Portal was completely sold out at retailers across the internet. What changed? Only the entire world.
Social distancing sparked a new era of video chat, clearly visible through webcam shortages and skyrocketing stock prices for teleconferencing companies like Zoom. And yet, the benefits of video chat have not been evenly applied. While phone calls are familiar to anyone under the age of 100, video chat is alien to large swathes of the population. Walking a video-chat neophyte through their first call is what IT professionals refer to by the technical term “a goddamn nightmare.”
As a result, simplified, dedicated video-chat devices that once filled small niches have found themselves filling canyons, catering especially to an elderly audience that is technologically disinclined and in particular need of remaining socially distant. Built on their own significant video-calling infrastructures, competitors like Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Nest Hub are surging to fill the void as well, but it is Facebook, with its billions-strong network and sizable share of older users, that is poised to dominate the space.The spectre of surveillance still remains: none of the three major companies producing these devices is free from privacy and data-use scandals, and the stakes only rise once a camera is in your living room. But like so much else, the calculus has changed — for now.
Next to your keys, wallet and phone, a proper hand sanitizer should now be an essential part of your EDC. What's meant by proper you ask? The CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Yes, a typical bottle of Purell or Germ-X meets this threshold. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for clinical smells and ultra dry skin. Instead, look for elevated options imbued with hydrating and soothing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and lavender to get a sanitizer that’s as moisturizing as it is cleansing.
How you apply hand sanitizer is equally important to maximizing its effectiveness according to Dr. Linda Anegawa, MD, a physician at the virtual healthcare platform PlushCare. "Alcohol disrupts the surface of the virus so that it can’t bind as well,” Dr. Anegawa explains, “Things like bleach, alcohol and like Lysol all kill viruses within about 10 to 30 seconds of contact time.”
Based on this fact, Dr. Angawa says its important to completely cover every exposed surface of your hand and give it at least 30 seconds to fully dry, making sure not the wipe off the excess.
She also is quick to point out that washing with soap and water for "a good 20 seconds" is still "the gold standard" for germ removal. She explains "cleaning is the removal of dirt and impurities from surfaces. And disinfection is the killing of viruses and bacteria that cause disease. If your hands still harbor dust, if they harbor dirt, those are additional surface areas where viruses and bacteria can land and live."
Social distancing left us separated but not out of touch. Trapped alone with our phones and computers and little to do but stare at them, we’re arguably more connected than ever. This contradiction has revealed an underlying truth: there’s an important difference between communicating and simply being together.
The internet has always provided ways to bridge this gap, from early Internet Relay Chat protocol (IRC) chat rooms to their modern day successors like Slack (which is literally built on the same technology) and Discord. With the waves of lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, they have become more useful than ever.
By maintaining a persistent digital space that you and your friends or family can drop in and out of, have a conversation, share memes or just quietly lurk, group chats enable an experience of low-pressure togetherness that one-on-one communication doesn’t hold a candle to.
Apps built to that end only improve the experience. Slack has its robust threading features to enable dozens of conversations at once, like a living room at a party. Discord, meanwhile, has dedicated voice-chat channels that you
can use to drop in and literally talk to whomever is hanging out without having to call a specific person.
Perhaps their biggest benefit, however, are the lines these apps draw around social interactions. Sometimes, the only thing better than catching up is not talking, and the best way to appreciate being together is having the ability to occasionally log out.
Whether you live in a city or a suburb, life involves a lot of touching. Door handles. ATMs. Crosswalk buttons. With the antimicrobial properties of copper and brass in mind, EDC brands from Peel to Leatherman have been churning out no-contact hooks and handles that let you interact without sticking your finger into a bacterial hotbed. They aren’t a stand-in for hand washing, but thanks to crowd-funding campaigns that have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, they’ll be gracing keychains for years to come.
City dwellers trapped in tiny apartments have been feeling the stress of social-distancing as a double claustrophobia. No wonder so many of them have turned to lusting after one of the design world’s most clichéd trends: the kit home. Prefab, mail-order houses have been promised for decades, but now they have added appeal beyond their quaintness. Designs, like those by Den Outdoors — which sells DIY manuals for A-frames and cabins you build yourself — call out with the promise of social separation and a comparatively affordable path to homeownership. It may not be much bigger than an apartment, but hey, at least it has a yard.
More than 60 percent of U.S. states follow what’s called the three-tier system: beer, wine and liquor producers sell to distributors; distributors sell to retailers; and retailers sell to consumers. The internet should have rendered this system obsolete years ago, but for myriad reasons (including aggressive lobbying by alcohol distributors), it hasn’t. Cue Covid-19...
This summer, in the wake of nationwide shutdowns, The Macallan, a 196-year-old distillery, became the first spirits brand in the United States to sell their product through their own website. And while the operation can’t truly be described as direct-to-consumer — it’s run through a network of local delivery services — it represents one of the first significant steps past the three-tier system in whisky history.
When cafés around the country closed, caffeine-deprived java heads turned to their own coffee makers for relief. As for the beans: since launching in 2018, Trade has connected coffee drinkers to over 50 roasteries across the U.S. Newcomers take a quiz that, through Trade’s coffee-taste algorithm, recommends the best beans for their tastes, brewing equipment and how they like their coffee (no milk-shaming). It is the single largest collection of craft coffee roasters on the internet, and it’s never been more essential.
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the restaurant world, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s this: according to nearly every poll, survey and study held since the virus hit, Americans are cooking more than ever. And in lieu of restaurant-quality food, a new generation of cooks are feasting on restaurant-quality cooking technology.
Many have turned to sous-vide circulators like the ChefStep Joule to take the guesswork out of cooking conversation-worthy steaks or immaculately tender salmon. Others are trading in their clunky cast-iron skillets for carbon-steel cookware, a restaurant staple that boasts all the same searing capabilities, with half the fuss.
Now on the horizon: countertop-sized combination steam ovens, like the one on its way from Anova Culinary, another brand democratizing sous vide cooking. Using steam technology, “combi” ovens are primed to bring lightning-fast preheat times, virtually zero temperature fluctuation and a Ph.D in sourdough baking to the rest of us.
One clear beneficiary of the pandemic: the bicycle industry. U.S. sales of bicycles, bike equipment and services increased 81 percent to $1.11 billion in May 2020 compared to May 2019, according to PeopleForBikes. But the surge hasn’t been limited to the kind of wheels you ride outdoors. The spring season saw stock in Peloton — the trendy, digitally connected stationary-bike company — shoot up 95 percent, and a single April streaming class had 23,000 participants, 4,000 more than the previous record of 19,000, set last year. Even SoulCycle got in on the act, releasing a $2,500 home version of its studio bike in March.
Meanwhile, outdoor cyclists who’d likely never set foot in a spin class have embraced virtual bike racing. The popular indoor cycling app Zwift partnered with USA Cycling to launch the Virtual Race League and even hosted a Virtual Tour de France. While some might scoff that e-racing isn’t real racing, it is making the sport more inclusive. It’s enabled women to participate in their own virtual TdF, and African cyclists who might not otherwise compete in international events have been racing their counterparts around the world in the Team Amani X Africa Rising - Intercontinental Series.
Looking to get into e-racing? You can use most of your traditional gear, including your bike; just connect it to a smart trainer like the Wahoo Kickr Core, pair with Zwift and go. Want to stream spin classes? A stationary bike, some indoor cycling shoes and stylish, moisture-wicking apparel will put the wheels in motion. So to speak.
With flights and other modes of travel still fraught, that next trip to the Rockies might be years away. The next best thing? Your own backyard. These self-contained outdoor spaces let you breathe fresh air, smell the grass and watch for cardinals unobstructed by a face mask. No wonder both bird-seed sales and downloads of the National Audubon Society’s bird-identification app have jumped. See for yourself with Brome’s innovative Squirrel Buster Plus. Its seed ports close under the weight of those pesky interlopers, leaving the good stuff for your feathered friends.
The great toilet-paper panic has subsided, but there’s no arguing that the pandemic caused the biggest surge in end-times stockpiling since Y2K. Bug-out bags became so hot, even Pottery Barn and Nordstrom started carrying them. Meanwhile, business for Uncharted — maker of the Seventy2 Pro — quadrupled, leading to a big back-order note on the website: “Coronavirus has sold us out.” Now restocked, the rugged pack is worth a look: it’s stuffed with items designed to help two people survive a crisis for 72 hours, by which time 95 percent of such situations are resolved … one way or the other.
Road trips are in vogue, and with them, recreational vehicles — just not the kind you remember from Breaking Bad. There’s a wider range of options than ever, with travel trailers, camper vans and RVs available in an astounding array of sizes and prices. Mercedes-Benz offers a pop-top camper van that’s a modern-day version of the VW Westphalias of yore. Airstream’s top seller, the Basecamp, sleeps four and even comes in an off-road edition. And Winnebago’s bus-sized Horizon delivers all the comforts of home — even a working fireplace — for a home-sized price.
Expensive fees, inconvenient locations and less-than-spectacular service: hit Hertz, Avis, et. al with a body blow. Ridesharing companies like Turo, which lets owners rent out their private rides á la Airbnb, are poised to pick up the baton as consumers rethink both travel and their relationship with personal automobiles. Turo offers users a greater array of cars and trucks at a wide variety of prices than rental agencies do — and gives car owners a chance to earn passive income, too.
Backcountry Ski GearCovid-19 shut down ski lifts early last season, and whether resorts will open again — and at what capacity — remains uncertain. Many season passes feature insurance policies, but you can further pandemic-proof your outlook with gear that’ll get you to the top, chairlift or no. Boots with flexible walk modes and tech inserts pair with a new class of binding that adjusts for backcountry and resort use — all that’s left is grabbing some climbing skins and an all-mountain ski that goes uphill as easy as it slides down.
The pandemic has decimated mass transit, but filling the roads with more cars is far from ideal. Fortunately, bikes of all kinds have been flying off the racks, but it’s the e-bike, in particular, that holds a practical promise, combining the flexibility of cycle commuting with the ease of motorized transport. The latest from Rad Power Bikes, the RadMission, is a simple, relatively lightweight single-speed that packs enough power to help you pedal 45 miles without showing up drenched in sweat. Plus, it’s priced within reach of far more people than fancier options carrying four- or even five-figure tags.