Naturally, it would take three teenage boys to think it up. Students from England’s Isaac Newton Academy have created a concept for a smart condom that would alter its luminescent hue when exposed to common STDs. There would be antibodies on the condom that would interact with the antigens of STDs, causing the condom to change colors depending on the disease.
For instance, if the condom were exposed to chlamydia, it might glow green — or yellow for herpes, purple for human papillomavirus and blue for syphilis.
Daanyaal Ali, 14, Muaz Nawaz, 13, and Chirag Shah, 14, call their concept the S.T. EYE. Get it? It won top honors Tuesday in the U.K.’s TeenTech Awards, an annual competition that aims to encourage students to “understand their true potential and the real opportunities available in the contemporary STEM workplace.” The students won about $1,500 and a trip to meet Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace later this year.
It is unclear whether they’ll present their condom project to the queen.
“We knew that STIs were a huge problem in the U.K.,” Daanyaal told The Washington Post. “We saw a gap in the market and we wanted to help people feel safer.”
Granted, TeenTech chief executive Maggie Philbin said it is only a concept for now.
“I think the reason the judges put this idea first was because the project showed how much learning these boys had done while researching STDs,” she told The Post.
Clever as color-coded condoms may be, such an idea raises interesting questions, according to Daily Dot’s EJ Dickson. Does the contraceptive detect diseases in the user or his partner? Or both? And can it distinguish between the two?
If the user has multiple STDs, does the condom turn into a rainbow? What are users supposed to do once they see the color change? And worst case scenario: What if you’re color blind?
Indeed, it would be a long time before these condoms could make it to the contraception aisle. The students are working on the concept. For instance, Chirag said, since herpes is an incurable STD, some people may not want to know they have it. He said he and his teammates may substitute herpes detection for other common STDs, such as gonorrhea or even HIV.
Just think: Eventually, it could have unfortunate sexual partners everywhere fumbling for the prophylactic instruction manual when areas down there start to turn colors.
“We know most of these ideas remain ideas,” Philbin said. “But some of them do make it.” Condom companies have already started approaching them.
[This story has been updated.]