Device that trains people to stop touching face launches to reduce COVID-19 transmission

The "Nudge" device uses behavioural science and artificial intelligence to vibrate when the wearer is about to touch their face.
By Sara Mageit
10:07 am
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Credit: Nudge wristband device 

UK tech company PIVOT1080 has launched a smart wristband to train people to stop touching their face, a common transmission route for COVID-19.

The ‘Nudge’ band uses behavioural science and AI to differentiate between over 1,000 different hand movements and to psychologically 'nudge' the wearer.

Using gesture recognition to calculate hand movements, the device vibrates when it identifies the wearer is about to touch their face, sending them a warning and nudging the brain into new behaviours. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Avoiding face touching is one of the key recomendations from the World Health Organization and the UK Government in the battle against COVID-19.

Unfortunately, most face touching is subconscious and a habit that forms early on, making it difficult to break.

A study in Australia in 2015 showed that on average people touch their face 23 times an hour – or once every three minutes.

Forty-four per cent were touches are to eyes, nose and mouth, which means people are regularly exposing themselves unnecessarily to the risk of infection.

Nudge developers say the band helps minimise wearers’ risk of catching infectious diseases and can also help many who suffer from Body-Focussed Repetitive Behaviours, such as hair pulling, nail biting and skin picking, which are thought to affect up to 5% of the population.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

In a bid to support hospitals in the second wave of COVID-19, NHS trusts are being offered an app aimed at reducing hundreds of deaths that are linked to two hospital-acquired conditions - acute kidney injury (AKI) and pneumonia (HAP).

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have recently developed an AI tool that listens to a person's coughing to determine whether or not they may have COVID-19, regardless if they are or are not symptomatic.

ON THE RECORD

Grant Gillon, CEO of PIVOT1080, said: “Nudge was born out of worries for our own at-risk relatives.

“We pooled together the infectious diseases and healthcare backgrounds of the team and turned to behavioural science and tech… and that’s when the concept for Nudge began.

“It uses its namesake, nudge theory, which states that friendly pushes can encourage positive behaviours. This theory has been around for some time and is gaining a huge amount of attention; even the UK Government has a Behavioural Insights Team, informally known as the ‘nudge unit’.

“It’s taken months of hard work from a team of specialists and Nudge has now been taught over 1,000 hand movements and arm gestures to recognise when you’re touching your face or when you’re just waiving at someone.

“We think it could really help not only those at-risk from COVID-19, but also people who have no choice but to carry on with life and work outside the home for the time being."

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