NASA's open-source pendant will stop you from touching your face and help fight coronavirus

Called PULSE, the pendant is a 3D-printed wearable device that pulses or vibrates when a person’s hand is nearing their face

                            NASA's open-source pendant will stop you from touching your face and help fight coronavirus
(Lisa Harbottle)

A small team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) has developed a 3D-printed pendant to be worn as a necklace, which pulses or vibrates to warn a person when their hand is nearing their face. Called PULSE, it is most effective when worn six inches below the chin and is intended to stand side-by-side with the existing efforts against Covid-19, say experts.

The haptic feedback from the vibration motor simulates a nudge reminding the wearer to avoid touching their face to reduce potential coronavirus infection. “PULSE is a 3D-printed wearable device. The 1.8-inch pendant is worn six inches to 12 inches below the chin when attached by an 18 inches to 24 inches necklace. It is a simple and affordable technology that can easily be reproduced by anyone regardless of their level of expertise,” says NASA in a statement. 

PULSE is made up of low-cost parts, powered by a three-volt battery, all housed within a 3D-printed case. To detect motion, it uses an infrared proximity sensor with up to 12 inches of range. When the wearer’s hand approaches their face, the movement is detected and the vibrating motor is activated. As the hand gets closer, the response or the vibration becomes stronger. “Since the IR (infrared) sensor has a built-in LED output, we printed using transparent material for the initial prototype. Other colors and pendant designs can be used. Our computer-aided model was designed to securely hold each technical component in place making it a reliable architecture with easy assembly,” say experts.

The electrical components, with call-outs, that make up the initial first pendant prototype.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one can become infected by coming into close contact (about six feet) with a person who has Covid-19 from respiratory droplets when the infected individual coughs, sneezes or talks. The disease can also be transmitted if a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes, which are all entryways for the coronavirus into the body. The NASA concept is a response to how often hand-face contact occurs throughout the day, a subconscious behavior that can be overlooked and challenging to correct.

As economics reopen and people return to work, US health experts have advised that individuals should continue washing their hands, practice social distancing and wear a face mask when going outside. The research team says PULSE is not meant to take the place of masks or respirators, but only to be a warning device that a person’s hands are moving past the pendant towards their face. “Until a reliable vaccine is made available, PULSE can be seamlessly integrated into our everyday life as we return to our workplace. This can help stop the spread of infection and keep us healthy,” says NASA.

The device called PULSE seamlessly fits into everyday life, says NASA. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The research team has made the design available online as an open-source so that it can be easily replicated. It lists the tools and equipment needed, materials required, links for ordering, circuit diagram and assembly instructions. “A list of parts, files, and assembly instructions are all available as open source. We hope individuals or companies will replicate, refine or enhance PULSE and make it easily available for distribution,” the authors write.

The scientists say the designs have not been reviewed, cleared or approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other regulatory authority, nor have they received Covid-19 emergency use authorizations for medical devices in the US.

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