‘Fitbit For The Face’ Fits In Any Mask And Turns It Into A Health Tracker
By Ell Ko, 14 Jan 2022
The traditional wearable is most associated with a band that fits snugly around our wrist. But recent inventions have been reworking that to collect data about our health and vitals from different parts of the body.
This includes the ‘FaceBit’, which has been dubbed a “Fitbit for the face.” Developed by researchers at Northwestern University, this wearable takes on a rather unique shape: a mask.
Since the pandemic has seen the face mask become almost like a second skin, the new tech leverages its omnipresence to track and deliver information about the wearer’s health, mask fit, and even heartbeat.
A smart sensor fits into the mask, which can be almost any type from an N95 to a standard surgical type. Powered by movement and the heat of the wearer’s breath, the device communicates data to a dedicated smartphone app.
“We wanted to design an intelligent face mask for healthcare professionals that does not need to be inconveniently plugged in during the middle of a shift,” explains Josiah Hester, device development lead.
“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.”
Syncing up to the mobile app means the sensor can then send notifications to the user when urgent situations arise, such as an unexpected elevated heart rate or a leak in the mask.
Over time, the collected physiological data can be “used to predict fatigue, physical health status and emotional state,” per a University news release.
Study Finds reports that it is, indeed, possible to detect heart rate from the mask thanks to the way a person’s head will move “an almost unrecognizable amount” every time their heart beats.
This movement allows for the sensor to calculate heart rate, albeit not in the conventional way that other devices do.
A paper published in the Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies details that the team found the FaceBit to be similarly accurate to clinical-grade health tracking devices.
In addition to this, the battery was able to last longer than 11 days in between charges.
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