You may not be thrilled with it face masks they are part of everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic, but could soon be useful for more than protecting others and yourself. Researchers from Northwestern University (including Game Boy without battery creator Josiah Hester) have developed “FaceBit” face mask sensor that can monitor a wide range of health data within the N95 mask. The magnetically attached unit can measure your heart rate using subtle head movements due to blood pumping and can detect leaks or poor fit requiring sudden drops in mask resistance.
These measurements, in turn, can help the sensor detect a number of other conditions. Heart and breathing data could let you know when you are stressed and need a break. And while the sensor won’t replace the N95 grip test (to confirm proper sealing), it’s capable enough to help you maintain that grip for a long day.
You may not need to charge the sensor either. While there is a battery in the prototype, the sensor uses breathing force, heat, movement and the sun to extend the life of the mask to 11 days. Hester eventually wants the mask to be battery-free.
FaceBit will need to undergo clinical trials and other tests before it is ready for use in the real world. However, Hester’s team already is published the project code and hardware the public to help others build and validate it. While you probably won’t buy one of these for personal use, it could be crucial for hospitals looking to protect workers and prevent burnout during long shifts.
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