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Are bubbles and pods part of our post-pandemic future?

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Photo:{ }Willem Velthoven for Mediamatic Amsterdam

NEW YORK CITY (SBG) - In May, manufacturers warned of potential Plexiglass shortages, as plastic dividers started to become part of the new normal. While shoppers may have now grown accustomed to the clear barriers in place at grocery store checkouts and fast food restaurants, some businesses are still managing to surprise and delight their customers with more elaborate solutions. Pods, domes, and bubbles are popping up at restaurants, gyms, and workplaces, and they've even been used for concerts and personal parties as well.

Will we be enclosed in individual bubbles forever? It's hard to predict exactly what the future might hold, but whether or not they're here to stay, pods are providing plenty of unique experiences to be had right now.

You can party in a pod.

Instead of settling for connecting with her friends virtually, Theresa Smythe found an inventive way to social distance. The Hamilton Heights resident ordered pop-up backpacking tents that allowed her to hang out with her friends without any safety concerns. Her first gathering in the protective pods was a happy hour, complete with a projector to watch movies on the side of a building. Since then, Smythe has hosted several other parties and plans to keep it up for as long as necessary.

And take a spin class.

A spin studio in Vermont built pods around their bikes to keep students at ease following their June reopening. The owner of Alpenglow Fitness was initially worried about the studio's ability to survive the pandemic, but the barriers gave her the confidence needed to safely resume classes when restrictions were lifted.

How about dining out in your own greenhouse?

At the Amsterdam art center Mediamatic, the main restaurant is housed in a large greenhouse, so miniature greenhouses were a natural choice for a coronavirus-inspired expansion. You can book tickets for either a two-person or a four-person "Serre Séparée," which includes a plant-based meal. The waiters wear protective shields over their faces and serve food via long wooden boards.

If you're missing hot yoga, these bubbles can recreate the studio experience.

Gone are the days of having your neighbor drip sweat onto your mat in a crowded yoga studio. In Toronto, Lmnts Outdoor Studio is offering pop-up yoga classes in private domes. The domes produce a greenhouse effect, reaching temperatures above 100 degrees; they're also equipped with fans to allow guests to slightly adjust the heat levels to their personal liking.

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You can also workout in plastic pods at a California gym.

To protect members from coronavirus, the owner of Inspire South Bay Fitness crafted plastic workout pods out of shower curtains and PVC pipes. Each pod is supplied with all of the equipment needed for the gym's group fitness classes. According to an Instagram caption, the pods have been a success so far: "We completed our first two weeks of working out in our pods. Major kudos to our clients who stayed open-minded and adapted quickly to our new rules & safety guidelines."

These courtyard pods are the ideal place for a romantic meal.

Ahead of The White Hart of Wytham's reopening, owner Mark Butcher added ten pods to the pub's outdoor dining area. The pods, designed by a local carpenter, are made primarily of recycled material and decorated with flowers. They're covered in a protective vinyl, which has the added benefit of protecting guests from unsavory weather.

An Egyptian architect designed these innovative office pods for a safer workplace.

Offices, especially those with open floor plans, may need a redesign to keep employees safe when they return. Cairo-based architect Mohamed Radwan is thinking toward this transition with his project Q.Workntine. The concept would replace cubicles and shared desks with a system of hexagonal pods; each pod would be equipped with built-in air purifiers and airtight doors.

A French designer has created a solution for the future of dining.

Before COVID-19, the idea of dining inside of a personal lampshade may have seemed ridiculous. But as restaurants try to protect their customers upon reopening, plastic cylinders may be the answer to any safety concerns. French designer Christophe Gernigon has received interest from restaurants around the world for his stylish Plex'Eat shields, which add a bit more flair to dining rooms than plain plexiglass walls would.

And The Flaming Lips used bubbles for a socially distanced performance.

The Flaming Lips have long been using inflatable bubbles at their shows. Lead singer Wayne Coyne is known for going out into the crowd encased by a bubble, and he even got married inside of a bubble in 2019. But when the band performed on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" in June, it wasn't just Coyne surrounded by plastic; each member of the audience watched from inside a bubble as well.