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Face masks that cover the mouth and nose to prevent COVID-19 contamination could soon become a lot more useful for the wearer. Researchers are trying to offer more health benefits by placing an array of sensors within a standard N95 mask to collect data about the wearer’s health. The sensors could alert about potential health risks and even alert the wearer about leaks or poor fit.
FaceBit is a new magnetically attached chipset, with an array of sensors, that has been developed by researchers at Northwestern University. FaceBit is independent of a facemask and can be placed inside any new N95 mask using magnets that help secure it in place.
FaceBit can reportedly ascertain the wearer’s heart rate using the subtle head movements from blood pumping. As the sensor is so close to the mouth and nose, it can even alert the wearer that they are experiencing stress and indicate they should take a break.
In addition to the health data, the FaceBit sensor can also detect leaks or poor fit of the mask by looking for “sudden dips in mask resistance”.
The technology still has to undergo clinical trials and other real-world tests. However, the researchers behind FaceBit have released the project code and hardware to the public. This should significantly speed up the development and refinement process.
The current iteration of FaceBit has a battery, but the final iteration might not need a battery at all, relying instead on the aforementioned renewable sources to generate its own power.