This Demo Explains Physical Distancing With Personalised Avatars

You’re staying at home, we hope. But when you spend so much time looking at your own four walls, it’s hard to internalize the fact that the very things you’re not doing—dropping off the kids at day care, seeing your gym buddies for a workout—are what’s truly making a difference. This little demonstration from Laval University in Quebec might help: It illustrates how physical distancing works, and literally puts a face (actually, nine of them) on the process.

It’s basically just an animation of two different scenarios: a disease spreading both with and without distancing measures in place. Before you can watch it, you must customise an avatar to represent yourself. You’re then asked to create avatars for people you know, or whom you interact with in your community. I added some family members I miss seeing, someone from day care, someone from the gym.

As narration explains what’s going on, hexagons marking each person you’ve created turn red (for severe cases) or pink (for milder ones). The demo doesn’t explicitly kill anybody off, but the implication is enough: We get to watch how the disease spreads when everybody is in the same network, and then what happens when people are split up into small islands with minimal interaction between them.

As a bonus, there’s also a visual explanation of herd immunity, which is what we’re hoping to achieve with a future vaccine (and what we already have for other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and chickenpox). It only takes a few minutes to go through the demo, so take the time to explore it—or show it to the nearest child who loves to create Mii avatars but doesn’t get why they can’t see their friends right now.


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