It's an uncertain moment for businesses and startups, in particular, as they feel the impact of COVID-19 especially acutely after the pandemic cut them off from the access to funding. Nevertheless, everyone is trying to do their bit to alleviate the disaster with numerous initiatives both by global business giants and small companies. Today, we'll cover some inventions by tech startups around the world aimed at helping society withstand the global pandemic.
3D protective gear
Chilean manufacturer of 3D printing materials Copper 3D published an open-source digital file of the NanoHack masks, which can be 3D printed and used to protect against viruses and infections, in particular COVID-19. It takes around 2 hours on average to print one mask. The mask’s 3D design can be downloaded on the startup website and Thingiverse. During the first two days after the mask was released, its design was downloaded more than 3 million times, with people from around the world sending photos wearing the protective gear they printed themselves.
As the inventors note, their unique design employs a novel modular filtration system manufactured with a copper nanocomposite polymer that is scientifically validated and proven to have antimicrobial properties. With its aim to provide the population with necessities that are now the scarcest, the innovators made their product reusable and recyclable in order to prevent the detrimental effect in the ecosystem that the single-use masks and respirators could cause.
In another 3D open-source initiative, Czech Prusa Research, which was founded as a one-man startup in 2012, posted a model of a protective face shield. Prusa Research created a design, prototyped, verified, and started mass production of protective face shields with 3D printed and laser cut plastic components. The design was approved by the Czech Ministry of Health and quickly spread to all corners of the world. However, the shield alone cannot be used as a replacement for a surgical mask or respirator but should be combined with them due to the way the virus spreads. The company is trying to make the 3D-printed components safer, more comfortable, and faster to print and has recently released its third updated version.
3D hand disinfectant
3D Tech, a Ukrainian startup from Lviv, designed a contactless disinfectant that works with just raising your hands to the device without touching it. Such devices are not new on the market, but they are quite expensive for home and personal use; therefore, the company sells them at a very reasonable price just to cover the costs of production. Besides, the open-source design is available online so that anyone can access it. One of the apparent advantages of the automatic hand disinfectant is that it can be refilled multiple times with any liquid solution. Watch the video explainer.
Voice COVID-19 tests
Israeli startup Vocalis Health is collecting the samples of voice from patients suffering from COVID-19 as well as healthy individuals with the hope of finding the infection markers and developing a new contact-free screening method. The data will be analyzed using machine learning technology. The startup is going to create an algorithm to help the Department of Health conduct an initial assessment and monitor the condition and symptoms of coronavirus carriers in their homes to avoid overloading the health care system.
Since the coronavirus affects the respiratory system, the underlying assumption is that the signs of symptoms it causes can be reflected in patients' voices and breathing. Anyone can send their voice samples via the company's website and mobile app. The first results of the study, which is carried out in collaboration with healthcare organizations and hospitals in Israel and around the world, are expected to be announced in four to six weeks.
As common coronavirus preventive advice goes, we should resist the urge to touch our face, since this is the way the virus can get from door handles or other objects to the mucous membranes and cause the disease. Fortunately, a startup called Slightly Robot created a wristband Immutouch that shows a signal when you are about to touch your face.The device is equipped with an inbuilt accelerometer, which measures the movement of hands 10 times per second. The wristband buzzes when you are touching or are about to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. The technology is aimed not just at preventing you from reaching to touch your face, but also at developing a brain reaction to get rid of a bad habit for good. The brain absorbs negative feedback from vibration and learns to ignore the urge. An Immutouch bracelet costs $50. It is advisable to use two bracelets on both hands, but you can start with one. “We’re not looking to make money on this. We are selling each unit nearly at cost, accounting for cost of materials, fabrication, assembly, and handling,” ‒ says co-founder Justin Ith.
COVID-19 symptom tracker
Swiss startup Ava Science has recently started to collaborate with governments, nonprofits, and companies to employ the potential of its fertility wristband, known as Ava Bracelet, striving to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The device can track subtle changes in physiological parameters, such as temperature, breathing, and heart rate. With a smartphone app, the users can learn when their condition changes and decide whether it's time to seek medical advice.Mass temperature screening has been one of the critical components of containing the spread of coronavirus in many countries, with people being screened at the airports or before accessing various public services. Therefore, Ava Bracelet has application potential for remote automatic monitoring of people for the early signs of coronavirus and the progression of symptoms for patients who tested positive. The founders also see the possibility of sharing the data with health care professionals as a remote screening tool in hospitals, reducing the risk of new transmission with less need for manual checking of patients' condition.