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Thermal AR glasses give screening for possible coronavirus a high-tech twist

Introducing Vuzix M4000 Smart Glasses at CES2020

Smartglasses can have all sorts of handy use-cases, from augmented reality gaming to bringing up contextual information about objects or surroundings to help the wearer. In the age of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, they might have another useful application, however; assisting people in helping spot possible signs of the virus from a distance. This could be used to help border control officials and health workers as they come to grips with the most serious public health crisis in recent years.

The technology is the work of augmented reality tech company Vuzix. Vuzix makes smartglasses for the enterprise market, covering areas like remote support, logistics, telemedicine, and manufacturing. It enables applications such as being able to connect wearers to remote subject matter experts in order to rapidly diagnose, inspect, and resolve issues in even the most bandwidth-constrained environments.

Librestream, a company Vuzix works closely with, has developed a wearable thermal camera called the Onsight Cube. Using some additional software, it is now possible to pair this Onsight Cube with the Vuzix M4000 Smart Glasses to display real-time thermal video feed information.

M400 on Helmet

“Using the Onsight AR platform, medical workers can share the visuals with global medical experts who can remotely view and control the thermal output,” Paul Travers, CEO and founder of Vuzix, told Digital Trends. “These experts can adjust lighting and zoom, and capture HD video and thermal images, providing first responders and medical staff with critical real-time diagnostic information. Teams can also capture and securely store images and recordings or share in collaboration sessions.”

Temperature sensors are currently being used as a valuable diagnostic tool to help fight the spread of coronavirus. That’s because fevers are one of the symptoms of infection, which means that spotting this can help identify people who may be carrying the coronavirus. Sensors are being installed in stores, offices, and factories, while drone-makers are even attaching them to drones to do in-crowd identification. This approach, however, gives those who need it a mobile solution — and one that can be operated hands-free.

“Smartglasses are very difficult to make portable and rugged at the same time,” Travers said. “Vuzix has been working on this problem for years. The thermal imager is a 30FPS imager that streams live over Wi-Fi and the software that bring it all together has been years in development. Put this all together with a Wi-Fi connection, and remote telemedicine is enabled.”

Such efforts won’t be able to stop the spread of coronavirus, of course. But if tools like this could play a part in helping delay it, that would be a valuable application indeed. Perhaps AR’s most valuable application yet.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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