Bill Gates issued a challenge to inventors in March: Come up with a plan for making a more pleasurable condom that more men will actually want to use and win a cool million dollars. His quest to make safe sex better seems to be off to a strong start: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received 812 entries, from which 11 winners were yesterday announced. They've been handed $100,000 each and will now develop their ideas in a bid to be the $1 million winner. The New York Times, BBC, and New Republic describe the winning bunch as including an Indian condom maker, the California Family Health Council, a polymer chemist from the University of Tennessee, and Brits who have designed vacuums. Among their ideas:
- an "ultrasensitive reconstituted collagen condom" that feel more like skin, and could be made from fish skin or cow tendon
- a "wrapping condom" made from polyethylene that behaves like Saran Wrap and has pull-tabs to clarify which way to put it on
- a condom made using thermoplastic elastomers, a kind of plastic with superior flex as compared to latex
- a condom made from graphene, the strongest material the world has ever seen, mixed with latex
A Gates Foundation program officer notes that the ultimate winner might be a mash-up of two or more of the grantees: "There’s not one magic bullet. The idea is making them easier for people to use in the moment, in the dark, whatever situation they’re in."