Cosimo Scotucci’s social distancing concept is beautiful and impractical

This isn't going to help stop the spread of COVID-19. But it's a novel idea and a step toward better solutions.

At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen all kinds of technological innovations and gimmicks created around the problem of social distancing. But none are as pleasing to look at — or fun to play with — than architect Cosimo Scotucci’s “Physx.”

Physx will be installed in front of Rotterdam Station in the Netherlands. It’s essentially a circular flooring made of colored fibers that move as you do — what Scotucci calls a “dynamic solution” instead of the well-worn lines of tape on the floor in supermarkets and other public places that we’ve quickly grown used to.

Scotucci’s solution is engaging and aesthetically pleasing — it’s just not all that useful. And as thirsty as we are for interesting content right now, we do also need to be focusing our efforts — and our finances — on practical solutions that will actually keep us safe.

Levels of intensity — Physx utilizes a simple design to make its cues instantly recognizable to the average person. There’s no fancy computer learning involved here: just physics and some creative materials science.

Physx’s floor is made out of elastic fiber that’s raised off the ground about 50 centimeters. When someone steps on the membrane, the surface bends down to reveal different colors of safety: red for high risk, orange for medium, and yellow for the lowest risk. In this way, your movement interacts with others’ to create a dynamic map of potential risk.

On the right track, perhaps — Right now Scotucci’s Physx concept is just that: a concept. And that’s for the best, we think.

COVID-19 is a very real threat to humanity. It’s killed more than 800,000 people around the world, and it’s not looking like that will stop any time soon. It’s the kind of large-scale issue that requires practical solutions: ones that prioritize function over form.

The problem with Physx is that it’s just not usable. Its worth is tied to the ability to install this specialized flooring — a pricey and time-consuming investment. Physx is more like an art installation than a pandemic-fighting solution.

Scotucci’s concept is reaching towards something good, though. The goal here — to figure out better ways by which we can dynamically assess our own risk of spreading and contracting dangerous diseases — is a very useful one. Tape on the ground doesn’t move around with us, after all.