Anti-coronavirus paint and an autism app: KiwiNet awards celebrate the NZ tech aiding country's recovery from COVID-19

A Kiwi researcher has developed a paint that kills 99.9 percent of human coronavirus.

An antimicrobial substance is mixed into the paint - and testing has shown it kills nearly all COVID-19 that lands on it and lasts.

The paint is a finalist in Thursday night's KiwiNet Awards, celebrating new technology that will aid New Zealand's economic recovery - with robots also likely to play an important role.

Welcome to the future of industrial inspections - detecting the smallest problems remotely.

"The crawlers are used to go inside the tanks or the spray dryers and they look for small cracks that could harbour bacteria or some other contaminant," says James Robertson, Invert Robotics' Head of Product Development.

And it's much safer, with no need for people to hang from ropes or climb into small spaces. 

Its suction technology means the robot can navigate all sorts of different materials, unlike most other crawlers that use magnets.

"It means we can climb on things such as aircraft or wind turbine blades," Robertson says.

It's a design that will be showcased alongside 11 others on Thursday night - including a far-from-ordinary paint.

"These are coatings or paints that can kill bacteria and viruses," explains Eldon Tate of Inhibit Coatings. "We can reduce human coronavirus by 99.9 percent."

Tate says they adapted their product after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and have had some incredible results. It can be applied to surfaces like doors and desks.

"Even though they're usually thoroughly cleaned, they're not cleaned between people touching those surfaces - so there's a high risk of transmission," Tate says.

Computer-scientist -turned-entrepreneur Swati Gupta won't make the ceremony - she's stuck in lockdown in India - but her app's reach remains global.

Talk With Me opens the world of communication to people with autism. Gupta knew she was on to a winner when she received some encouraging feedback. 

"The teachers told us that the children started greeting each other in the class, they never did that before. And two girls had developed an enduring friendship," she says.

Gupta says it flips the usual script to empower the person with autism.

"We look at their ability and our disability - that's the driving force."

That urge to help is a common thread with these tech trailblazers, who are continuing to spread our number-eight-wire roots to a COVID-19 world.