According to a YouTube video, posted on June 3, The Bill & Melinda Foundation have funded a team of researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) in Australia to help develop a condom that will enhance the pleasure and give more sensation. Instead of using latex, the researchers are working on an alternative, a hydrogel based material that is designed to "act, feel, and look" more like real skin.
"Hydrogel is a network of polymer chains that are hydrophilic, sometimes found as a colloidal gel in which water is the dispersion medium. Hydrogels are highly absorbent (they can contain over 90% water) natural or synthetic polymeric networks. Hydrogels also possess a degree of flexibility very similar to natural tissue, due to their significant water content," according to Wikipedia.
By giving a natural feel, this will allow more people to use protection (at least that is the desired intention), preventing pregnancies and spread of STD's. "The funding will help us find the right material appropriate for the condom. We are in the process of screening materials to find a match that works well together. It's a tough job trying to find the right mix for this application - it's a huge challenge" said biomedical engineer research fellow Robert Gorkin, who is leading the project.
Researchers are working on its prototype and are pushing to develop the finished product as soon as possible. "What I can say now is that we have put together a team of material scientists, microbiologists, and biomedical engineers, among others. We need to design condoms that men want to use because they increase sexual pleasure," Gorkin said.
During an AMA on Reddit, when asked about condom design competition, Gates said "This is a sensitive topic. The idea was that men don't like the current design so perhaps something they would be more open to would allow for less HIV transmission. We still haven't gotten the results. One grantee is using carbon nanotubes to reduce the thickness."
If The Bill & Melinda Foundation approves the final product, the research could get a follow-on grant of up to $1 million. Here's the video: