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‘Fitbit for the face’ attaches to any face mask to turn it into a smart monitoring device

A new smart sensor has been unveiled which can turn any face mask into a Fitbit-style health monitoring device.

The FaceBit, or ‘Fitbit for the face’, is a quarter-sized sensor which attaches to a face mask using a small magnet and tracks a user’s respiration rate, heart rate, how long they have been wearing the mask, and if the mask has begun to leak.

Designed with the medical community in mind, it can be used by anyone to monitor their health, especially as many states and cities across the US continue their mask mandates.

The lightweight device can even be used to predict the wearer’s emotional state and level of fatigue, according to the group of Northwestern University engineers behind the Facebit.

  

A new smart sensor has been unveiled which can turn any face mask into a Fitbit-style health monitoring device

The gadget transfers all the data wirelessly to a smartphone app to users can check on their health in real time. In the case of a mask leak, or another health risk such as an elevated heart rate, it can send an immediate notification to the user.

While the tiny device is powered by a small battery, it is constantly being recharged  simply by the force of the user’s breath. It also takes a charge from the heat emanating from the wearer, as well as the sun, meaning it would last for 11 days between full charges. 

The lead designer Josiah Hester, Breed Junior Professor of Design at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, said he wanted to create an ‘intelligent’ face mask aimed at health care professionals which ‘does not need to be inconveniently plugged in during the middle of a shift,’ Eureka alerts reports.

‘We augmented the battery’s energy with energy harvesting from various sources, which means that you can wear the mask for a week or two without having to charge or replace the battery.’

The FaceBit, or 'Fitbit for the face', is a quarter-sized sensor which attaches to a face mask using a small magnet and tracks a user's respiration rate, heart rate, how long they have been wearing the mask, and if the mask has begun to leak

The FaceBit, or ‘Fitbit for the face’, is a quarter-sized sensor which attaches to a face mask using a small magnet and tracks a user’s respiration rate, heart rate, how long they have been wearing the mask, and if the mask has begun to leak

The lightweight device can even be used to predict the wearer's emotional state and level of fatigue, according to the group of Northwestern University engineers behind the Facebit

The lightweight device can even be used to predict the wearer’s emotional state and level of fatigue, according to the group of Northwestern University engineers behind the Facebit

The gadget transfers all the data wirelessly to a smartphone app to users can check on their health in real time. In the case of a mask leak, or another health risk such as an elevated heart rate, it can send an immediate notification to the user

The gadget transfers all the data wirelessly to a smartphone app to users can check on their health in real time. In the case of a mask leak, or another health risk such as an elevated heart rate, it can send an immediate notification to the user

The team of engineers have already released the designs as open source and open hardware so any company or individual is able to start producing the device. 

The Facebit has assed its first round of testing on volunteers but will need to undergo clinical trials if it is to include alerts for mask leaking.

‘FaceBit provides a first step toward practical on-face sensing and inference and provides a sustainable, convenient, comfortable option for general health monitoring for COVID-19 frontline workers and beyond,’ Hester said. ‘I’m really excited to hand this off to the research community to see what they can do with it.’  

While Hester created the device with the medical community in mind, people still wearing cloth, surgical or N95 face masks, as mandates continue, will benefit from its advances monitoring. 

It assess heart rate by monitoring the imperceptibly tiny moves a person’s head makes every time it beats and can calculate the rate.

‘Your heart is pushing a lot of blood through the body, and the ballistic force is quite strong,’ Hester said. ‘We were able to sense that force as the blood travels up a major artery to the face.’ 

By combining information on the heart rate with respiratory rates, such as an elevated heart rate and rapid breathing, Facebit detect stress and when someone is upset and can send an alert telling them to take a break or take some deep breaths to calm down.  

Designed with the medical community in mind, it can be used by anyone to monitor their health, especially as many states and cities across the US continue their mask mandates. File image

Designed with the medical community in mind, it can be used by anyone to monitor their health, especially as many states and cities across the US continue their mask mandates. File image 

Hester explained that his team had interviewed doctors, nurses and medical assistants about what they wanted from a smart mask. All responded that they wanted to focus on mask fit, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and dealing with other infectious patients. 

Current hospital mask fit tests for N-95s involve the wearer donning a plastic hood and being blasted with increasing amounts of aerosols that either taste sweet or bitter, until they can taste them.

If they can detect the taste too soon in the process, their masks are too loose. 

Hester hopes to be able to eventually streamline the process, and help alert wearers if their mask shifts or becomes loose and begins to leak. 

‘If you wear a mask for 12 hours or longer, sometimes your face can become numb,’ Hester said. ‘You might not even realize that your mask is loose because you cannot feel it or you are too burnt out to notice. We can approximate the fit-testing process by measuring mask resistance. If we see a sudden dip in resistance, that indicates a leak has formed, and we can alert the wearer.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk