Post 55: #Coronavirus and a global perspective…

…on going “touchless” in the new normal

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 55. 

Can’t touch this!

Tina F., Fairfax, #Virginia

I think we have all developed #coronavirus paranoia when it comes to touching anything. I know that I am very conscious of how many items I have to touch when out in public.

Many public places already have automatic doors, as well as touchless toilet flushers, faucets, and hand dryers. In some European cities, the public toilets go through a full automatic sanitation after every use. However, we are only at the tip of the iceberg with this technology. Many other public items should become touchless.

On any given day, I can touch so many public dispensaries such as a ticket machine, an ATM machine, a postal stamp machine, a snack vending machine, and a gas pump.

In March, while I was visiting England and people were still in coronavirus denial, I was buying a train ticket from a machine. It was so vile. Not only had it never been cleaned, but it was obvious that someone had spat on it. I was not going to waste my sanitizer cleaning the entire machine so I held my breath, got my ticket, and sanitized the hell out of my fingers.

No! Gross! I cannot do it anymore. All these machines must become touchless. I think this will be easy to accomplish. Much like the parking apps available today; we should have apps for everything.

Apps that can handle payments and produce tickets at public transportation machines. Maybe we can have a passcode in the app that allows you to access the retina recognition for high-security machines like ATMs. I’m not sure exactly how this will be implemented, but I am confident someone will design the solution.

Items to address:

  1. ATMs
  2. Ticket machines
  3. Mail drop off boxes
  4. Vending machines
  5. Handles made for passengers to hold on to in public transportation compartments.
  6. Rails of stairs and escalators
  7. Elevator buttons
  8. Touchscreen slot machines
  9. Touchscreen soda machines

Until such time as these items become touchless or controlled by an app, disposable clean finger covers (not gloves, but something like the rubber finger condoms worn by chefs when they cut a finger) should be available next to all machines. Of course, they should be made from biodegradable material because you know people will start littering.

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Contactless…no thanks!

RJD, #Beirut, #Lebanon

Many new ideas will emerge to help us (at least for the coming few years) as we navigate the presence of the throned germ in our lives.

One of these ideas is a key that helps us deal with opening the door, pressing keypad buttons, carrying things. Another is the contactless card that one scans over a credit card machine when making a purchase.

In the Far East, society functions using one’s own phone to make payments, board public transportation, and many other daily tasks in society.

I would probably purchase such a key and use it when I am out and about, but my question here is more philosophical than practical: What will being so worried about contact do to us as humans? We are a species that loves a hug; we are made to be in physical contact with one another. Will we start having relationships with an Orgasmatron soon, like in Woody Allen’s Sleeper?!

I am going out a bit more than I used to now that the lockdowns are beginning to ease. I smile at people I see; they don’t smile back because they don’t see my masked smile in the first place! I feel really silly smiling now.

A friend passed by the other day. We didn’t hug or do the 3 cheek kisses after not seeing one another for a long time. It feels awkward, emotionless, and cold.

What about when I want to thank someone profusely with a warm handshake? The key doesn’t do the job here and I, for one, am not looking forward to being impersonal in my contact with people in the future. I am a junior dinosaur on many levels, but then videotapes, CDs, and DVDs are a thing of the past that I did get over…

You’re on camera 🙂

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Virginia

Many moons ago, I worked for a company that specialized in biometrics. They were among the industry leaders in fingerprinting and retinal scanning. At the time, I thought the technology was pretty cool – but somehow a little creepy. I mean, who wants to have their retinas scanned so they can go to work? But that was back before iPhones looked lovingly at your face before letting you in.

Over these 55 days of lockdown, I’ve been thinking about how touchless technology, including retinal scanning, can solve problems: less bacteria, fewer infections. Better controlled pandemics, improved overall hygiene. But there are down sides, too. Touchless and other types of technology can help Big Brother take even more giant leaps.

If you use Face ID on your phone, guess what? Big Brother is probably making faces at you from behind an invisible screen. Want to get ahead at the airport? Just smile into the camera and skip to the front of the line. Your trusty airport security is watching.

Want to take public transportation? In most big cities, you can already link your phone to an account that gets debited every time you take the bus or the train. No germy turnstile to push, no coin or card slot to touch. And the authorities know exactly where you are and where you’re going. They might even know who you’re going to meet.

Vote by phone! Now your political preferences are known, and you didn’t have to touch a grimy voting booth. Shop online! Now your consumer profile is public, and you didn’t have to leave your home.

Whether providers use retinal scanning or other biometric technology, let’s face it: our eyes are not just the windows to our souls; they’re the keys to our bank accounts and personal data.

I could go on and on – there are so many examples of how super-sophisticated technology has invaded our daily lives – but here’s an essential point: what we thought was creepy and futuristic 10 and 20 years ago is today’s reality.

And is that reality so bad? With Artificial Intelligence, biometric information can help identify hotspots, predict future pandemic outbreaks, and perform contact tracing.

Do the risks of more invasive technology outweigh the benefits?

Either way, from this point forward, I think “touchless” and the “new normal” will – pardon the puns – see eye-to-eye and go hand-in-hand.

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