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Crazy new glasses might be able to spot people with coronavirus

Published Apr 16th, 2020 2:53PM EDT
Coronavirus Symptoms
Image: Wilfredo Lee/AP/Shutterstock

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  • Chinese startup Rokid developed thermal glasses that can be used in screening campaigns for the novel coronavirus.
  • The glasses could be used in public places and businesses once lockdown restrictions are loosened to find people who may have a fever, in an attempt to catch COVID-19 patients as early as possible.
  • Rokid glasses have been used in China, and the company is discussing partnerships with US hospitals and local municipalities.
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There’s no way to easily detect coronavirus infections right now, and there’s no specialized treatment that can help the body get rid of the virus or prevent infection altogether. That’s what makes it so dangerous and why social distancing is key right now. Eventually the world will start opening up again, but COVID-19 will not be defeated for at least few years. We will absolutely continue to experience localized outbreaks in the future. When that happens, we’ll hopefully be more prepared to deal with the new cases and contain the spread. Measures to reduce the risk of transmission could include prolonged COVID-19 screening campaigns designed to catch patients early on. Coronavirus testing for antibodies could map the immunity of a community following a bout of COVID-19. Contact-tracing with the help of smartphones could be a way to determine whether we’ve been exposed to infectious people.

Something as simple as wearing masks at all times could help reduce your risk, and public places may employ more advanced methods of screening for patients who have a fever. That’s a common COVID-19 symptom, but one that doesn’t appear in all patients. Even so, performing regular temperature checks might be recommended, and companies are figuring out tech tools that can improve the process and ensure the safety of the person checking the temperature of others. That’s where Rokid glasses could help.

The Rokid T1 glasses in the image below use a 12-megapixel camera and an infrared sensor to detect the temperatures of up to 200 people from three meters away. The whole process lasts some two minutes and could be a quick way to scan crowds at airports, train stations, and other busy places once social distancing measures are lifted or loosened.

Image source: Rokid

The T1 also has AR features, allowing users to save photos and videos with the help of voice commands. The company told TechCrunch that it would not upload any data to the cloud. For customers, privacy is very important to them. “The data measurement is stored locally,” Rokid’s US Director Liang Guan said. Privacy will be an integral part of any COVID-19 screening experience that relies on the capture of personal data, and any tech company has to make sure that data isn’t shared with others. That is especially true for China-based startups like Rokid, which could draw extra scrutiny from regulators.

Rokid plans to offer its wearable device to US hospitals and local municipalities but has not disclosed any of those clients. One commercial partner that was mentioned is online grocer Weee!, which will test the glasses to monitor the temperatures of warehouse employees.

Image source: Rokid

The T1 glasses were first deployed in China, as they were deployed in response to the novel coronavirus threat. The company’s main focus is AI and AR technology, however. In China, the glasses are used in national parks, schools, and by authorities screening for COVID-19 symptoms. Rokit plans to upgrade the device to take up to four temperature readings simultaneously, which could speed up screenings in public places.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.