Coronavirus Concert Couture: Micrashell Suit Provides COVID-19 Safeguard

Courtesy Micrashell
– The Man-Machine
Production Club’s new Micrashell suit would eliminate the need for social distancing at concerts.

Desperate times calls for desperate measures – but they’re rarely as sleek as Micrashell, the new space-age suit that could help fans return to concerts sooner and more safely than previously expected as the live industry looks to rebound from the coronavirus crisis.

Ideas for reopening concert venues as cases of COVID-19 decrease, but before a vaccine can guarantee immunity, have revolved around costly, cumbersome solutions like undersold venues and on-site testing, many of which would, even in the best-case scenarios, only allow venues to operate at partial capacity and with diminished revenue. 

With Micrashell, event production company Production Club turned the quandary on its head: What if venues could reopen at normal capacity while still safeguarding patrons from coronavirus, even before a cure arrived?

“We work every day to make beautiful shows and events for big companies and big artists and arenas,” says Production Club head of inventions Miguel Risueño, who has collaborated with artists including Skrillex and The Chainsmokers and events such as Amazon’s Intersect Festival since co-founding the company in 2012. “We saw that the industry was en masse canceling or postponing events. It was a very abrupt and scary decision. We said, ‘OK, we have some kind of responsibility here.’”

Like many live events companies, Production Club wanted to pivot during the coronavirus crisis to remain operational as a business while benefitting those impacted by the pandemic. But where some other gear-centric companies, like PRG and TAIT, had clear applications in the medical sector, Production Club, which typically rents gear for the events it produces, didn’t.

“What we provide is creating services and good production strategy,” Risueño says. With those strengths in mind, Production Club began to brainstorm solutions oriented around “preserving the physicality of the human interaction.” That yielded the concept for Micrashell, a high-tech suit to reduce transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus.

At first glance, Micrashell seems like a moonshot, landing somewhere between hazmat suit, Fashion Week curio and wear-able tech marvel. But as Risueño and fellow Production Club co-founder Corey Johnson, now head of special projects, explain, the garment was actually designed with currently existing technology in mind to expedite development.

Courtesy Production Club
– Daft Punk Chic
Micrashell’s futuristic design incorporates NIOSH-approved filtration, integrated speakers and a “supply system” for drinking and vaping.

“When we were designing the thing, we tried to not come up with a lot of science-fiction ideas, even if it doesn’t look like that from the renders,” Risueño says. “In the design process, we tried to come up with ideas that could be ready for production straight away. Something that’s already in the market is going to chop or save a bunch of production period after.”

For instance, Production Club’s Micrashell prototypes utilize 3M’s 5N11 N95 particulate filters, rather than proprietary technology. The suit also integrates several familiar bells and whistles, like an NFC pouch for contactless payment and an internal speaker allowing users to toggle audio inputs between performers ad the fans around them.

One unusual aspect: the patent-pending “supply system,” conceived so concertgoers can drink and vape without removing Micrashell’s head covering. The neck-area nodules might call to mind battlefield gas masks from the early 20th century, but they’re just another way Micrashell helps fans who just want to party again.

“You need to be able to drink,” says Risueño, adding that without that option, “nobody’s going to enjoy this and they are going to be miserable, and it’s already weird enough to be inside of the thing.”

The supply system allows for imbibing, sure, but it also could expedite bar lines and reduce drink tampering, making events safer. In that sense, it’s just one of several Micrashell features that solve issues other than the coronavirus- related ones at hand. Bluetooth integration continues the trend of improving concert sound; paired with social networks, the ability to toggle audio channels could help screen unwanted social advances.

At the other end of the spectrum, Production Club has touted that the suit’s top-only design – wearers will have to bring their own pants – will facilitate not just easy bathroom use, but easy fornication.

“Is it going to be the most glamorous? No,” says Risueño, cheekily noting that Production Club exists to solve problems creatively and that there’ll be plenty of pent-up sexual energy once clubs reopen.

Going forward, Production Club is working on Micrashell around the clock, and Johnson says that overtures to the industry players it sees as bulk customers have been received enthusiastically.

“We are thinking about this more in a B2B space,” Johnson says. “This isn’t something you’d go and order from Amazon.”

Rather, when fans arrived at venues, they’d receive pre-sterilized suits, which they’d don before entry and return after the show. Micrashell suits would be up-front investments for venues and promoters, Johnson says, but their cost would be offset by the revenue garnered from larger crowds. Those profits would likely not only keep venues afloat, but would preserve the high-quality production experiences that are now a given and don’t come cheap.

And Micrashell could also be a sound investment going forward, given the unknown duration of the current crisis and the possibility that coronavirus or other diseases like it could return someday.

“It’s like a fire extinguisher,” Johnson says. “Maybe there’s another wave and these things are on standby, so if it does happen, the whole industry doesn’t crash at once.”

After all, while livestreaming and virtual concert experiences have flourished during the coronavirus crisis, nothing can replace a physical show.

“For tens of thousands of years we have been person-to-person communicating and socializing,” Risueño says. “It is in our blood, the fact that you need to be face-to-face, that you need to physically experience the music in a way that you have the bass kicking you in the stomach.”