This year, 27 billion condoms will be sold around the world, but less and less people are using them. Because, let's face it, despite being great at protecting us against STIs and unwanted pregnancies, condoms aren't the sexiest thing to put on in the bedroom.

Australian researchers are hoping to change that, by working with a high-tech material called hydrogel to create a condom that actually feels good. And they need your help to figure out how best to market it.

Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has just announced a competition that asks design students and young designers from anywhere in the world to share their ideas about how the condoms of the future should be packaged, marketed, and branded. The best idea will win an AUD$3,500 cash prize, with runners-up receiving AUD$1,500.

"There are still parts of the world that are not purchasing and using condoms for many different reasons. It would be great if the packaging and branding tackled this issue," explained Bridgette Engeler Newbury, a design and business expert at Swinburne, when announcing the competition.

"We are undertaking research into existing condom packaging and branding and we hope this competition will help further our knowledge," added industrial designer Gianni Renda.

The condom is being developed as part of a partnership called Project Geldom between Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Wollongong, with the help of funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The researchers are using hydrogel because the material isn't just super-tough, it also has the unique benefit of feeling like human skin. And because it's a 'smart material', it can have different properties embedded into it. We reported on the project earlier this year:

"Even more impressive is the fact that hydrogels can be engineered to perform all kinds of different functionalities, such as self-lubrication, topical drug delivery, biodegradability and even electric conductivity. For example, imagine a condom that delivers its own dose of Viagra, or responds to stimulation just like human skin. Depending on how you fabricate the material, you can potentially open up a whole new world of pleasure."

Find out more about the competition here and start thinking about what would make you buy a condom. Entries close 31 July. Good luck!