Doorbells measure the visitor’s temperature, body buttons that read the user’s symptoms, or mouth guards taken from a science fiction movie. These are some of the gadgets that technology companies hope will change our lives during the corona pandemic.
The corona pandemic has been going on for almost a year. And while some do everything to visualize what life will be like after the pandemic, or when everything can return to normal, others see a continuation where we have to adapt to a virus that will be with us for a long time.
Technical solutions to problems that have arisen as a result of the pandemic are hard currency. This year’s CES trade show, an annual electronics trade fair usually held in Las Vegas, but this year it was digital, launched in January this year. The industry magazines agreed: The pandemic had left its mark on the products. The technology companies showed off their solutions to get as well-functioning a life as possible during the pandemic.
Telemedicine and digital healthcare continue to grow at the fair, and portable solutions focused on covid prevention are the latest addition, Jean Foster, communications manager for the company behind the fair, told MarketWatch.
Mouth-masks have been on everyone’s lips since the pandemic broke out. Do they protect? Who protects best? How should they be used? The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently determined that double masks, a surgical mask, and a cloth mask reduce the risk of covid-19 infection. In Germany, it has been mandatory since January this year to use a so-called FFP2 mouthguard, in public transport, among other places.
But the use of mouth protection has its downsides: foggy glasses, problems with seeing facial expressions, and subdued voice in conversations. Several companies have worked to develop the next generation of mouth masks, and at the technology fair, a number of these were shown — some of them taken from a sci-fi movie.
For around $150, hugged mouth-mask fusers can get Airpops Active + “smart” mask connected to the phone, with a sensor that measures both breathing and air quality in the air around one. In addition to filtering the air, the user also finds out in an app what types of pollutants and bacteria the worm has protected against.
For those who are more into communication but still want to take their mouth guard responsibility, something has instead focused on the sound experience inside the mouth guards. Binatone has developed a fabric mouthguard with built-in Bluetooth headphones and a microphone and control built into the mouthguard itself. While the mouthguard itself costs $50, you have to buy the filters to purify the air.
LG has developed a battery-powered mouthguard that acts as an electric air purifier in front of the face. It must last for eight hours of use “at low speed” before it must be re-charged — and the price tag is around $250
“Mouth-mask also has headphones and a microphone built-in.”
Razer’s mouth guard Project Hazel was perhaps the mouth guard that received the most media attention during the CES trade fair. A mouthguard where you can see the user’s face and lights up with neon lights in the dark. This mouthguard also has headphones, a microphone built-in, and the magazine Mashable believes it is a “fox-friendly” alternative. Whether the mask becomes a reality is not absolute. So far, it has been launched as a “concept.”
“Everyone is in an early stage of this. If it works, the market could be huge.”
Some have already adopted technology to assess the distance between people. In the United States, both universities and sports teams have used distance meters to ensure that people stay far enough apart.
– Everyone is at an early stage of this. If it works, the market could be huge because everyone wants to get back to some normality, says Laura Becker, head of research at the market analysis company International Data Corporation, to the New York Times.
The German company Kinexon is one of the companies that has created a system for measuring distances. With SafeZone, users wear a sensor on the body, emitting sound or light if it gets too close to a sensor on another person. The product can also log interactions between sensors, which can be used in infection tracking if someone were to test positive for covid-19.
The symptom detectives
It is not only distances that are considered essential to stop the spread of infection. During the covid pandemic, employers, universities, and restaurants worldwide have used temperature controls to ensure that people staying on-premises do not have a fever to detect covid-19.
Biointellisence is not satisfied with ordinary fever thermometers but has launched the product “Biobutton.” A small button attached to the body should be able to read the body’s functions and scan it for symptoms of covid-19. The button measures, among other things, temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate and can provide risk status to users. With an app linked to the button, they then find out if there is a risk that they are ill.
The AI company NeuTigers, which was founded at Princeton University, has developed an app that they believe with 90 percent certainty can find signs of covid-19 even among asymptomatic people, using biometric data.
“It is worrying that this invasive and untested tool could become a prerequisite for keeping the job, going to school, or being part of public society.”
But the use of this type of meter is not entirely uncontroversial. When the University of Oakland in the USA wanted to make it mandatory for athletes and the students who lived on the school campus to use Biobutton, the decision was met with protests. The New York Times reported that 2,500 students signed up for a name collection to escape, and the university decided to make the use of the button voluntary.
“It is worrying that this invasive and untested tool could be a prerequisite for keeping a job, going to school, or being part of the public community,” Albert Fox Cahn, director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told the New York Times in November.
The activity clock now has a function that reads when a person starts washing their hands, and which then creates a timer that shows when 20 seconds have passed.
During the pandemic’s increasing homework, access to digital solutions has become increasingly important when workgroups meet virtually instead of on-site. Microsoft recently launched a new platform where the company wants to increase “employee engagement, well-being, and opportunities to discover new knowledge.” The idea is that companies will be able to use the new platform to provide employees with internal communication and to increase social feeling, even at a distance.
Apple has also updated its existing products. In the Apple watch activity clock, for example, there is now a function that reads when a person starts washing their hands, and which then starts a timer that shows when 20 seconds have passed. The watch can also remind the user to wash their hands when it comes home, for example.
They have developed a sensor-controlled toilet so that you do not have to touch it to flush.
For those who want to be safe already when it opens the door to their home, the company Ettie has created a video doorbell. In addition to showing who is standing outside also with the help of infrared light, reads the person’s temperature standing outside. In this way, the user can receive an alarm about whether it is safe to let the guest in. The doorbell will be launched in 2021, and according to USA Today, it will cost just under $300.
The doorbell is not the only product that touches the home. CNet describes how several types of robots were displayed at the fair. The technology companies LG and Ubtech showed, among other things, two robots that can move around in rooms and disinfect surfaces that humans have touched.
The new interest in disinfection and avoiding touching surfaces is something that comes again: A new refrigerator from South Korean LG lights up if you knock on the door and has voice control, so you do not have to touch it to open it. But it is also estimated to cost around $4000.
The American company Kohler has embraced people’s new reluctance to touch things. They have developed a sensor-controlled toilet so that you do not have to touch it to flush.