This might sound a little unbelievable, but bear with me on this one.
Bill Gates is offering big bucks to a creative mind that can create the next generation of — not computer software — but condoms.
On behalf of the Grand Challenges in Global Health program, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is offering $100,000 worth of startup money for the inventor who dares to take the challenge seriously. And while the word “condom” along with all its implications may make some of us snicker, there is serious and revolutionary reasoning behind the plea. As outlined by the contest’s entry page:
“The one major drawback to more universal use of male condoms is the lack of perceived incentive for consistent use. The primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable, particularly given that the decisions about use must be made just prior to intercourse. Is it possible to develop a product without this stigma, or better, one that is felt to enhance pleasure? If so, would such a product lead to substantial benefits for global health, both in terms of reducing the incidence of unplanned pregnancies and in prevention of infection with HIV or other STIs?”
The goal of the Next Generation Condom calls for maintaining or improving the quality of pleasure that condoms can provide. It also involves making them friendly enough to raise the extent of regular use among males and females. The contest page entry makes a point of discussing the added expense and difficulties that come with less discussed use of a female condom. They look and work like this, in case you didn’t know.
If the invention of a new type of condom sounds too daunting, the Gates Foundation will also consider and possibly fund alternate means of improvement:
- Application of safe new materials that may preserve or enhance sensation
- Development and testing of new condom shapes/designs that may provide an improved user experience
- Application of knowledge from other fields (e.g. neurobiology, vascular biology) to new strategies for improving condom desirability
Are you up for the challenge?