Chinese designer Horatio Yuxin Han has leveraged the design principles behind common Asian products to solve problems that afflict the less fortunate. His Unifold affordable shoes were inspired by the folding art of origami.
Han's latest creation, the Air Cocoon, is no exception. Inspired by an Asian body pillow, the Air Cocoon is a new kind of mattress designed to keep bedridden or paralyzed patients from developing bedsores.
Han's inspiration came from the chikufujin—also known as a bamboo wife. These are body pillows of roughly the same size as another person. Because they are made up of a mesh that lets wind and breezes through, chikufujin are used in many hot, humid Asian countries instead of pillows or sheets in the summer. It's the same principle used in mesh office chairs, such Herman Miller's Aeron chair, but instead of applying the idea to a technology that keeps people from getting sweaty, Han put it to a more ingenious purpose.
Right now, the only way to prevent bedridden patients from developed bedsores and related skin conditions (more than 2.5 million are afflicted annually in America) is to move patients regularly. But the Air Cocoon could solve the problem another way. By minimizing the surface area between a patient's body and his or her mattress using the same principles as a chikufujin, the Air Cocoon could vastly decrease the likelihood of sores forming on the bodies of immobile patients—while simultaneously making it easier for health care workers to treat them.
While Han is specifically targeting the Air Cocoon as an affordable solution for bedridden patients, it's easy to see the practical uses of the Air Cocoon even for people like you and me. Who hasn't begrudged a sweltering mattress every inch of skin it has to touch on a humid summer day, or found themselves wishing for an air-conditioned pillow during a 90-degree night?