We present a relatively low cost electronic mask that can monitor physiological markers and indicate potential COVID symptoms.
The primary purpose of a mask is to prevent transmission of COVID-19, and while they are effective whether or not someone knows they are sick, they lack the ability to give any feedback of the risk posed by a user. Through the integration of sensors and electronics, we can build upon existing mask designs to monitor heart rate, blood oxygen content, and body temperature, along with tracking coughing to detect excessive/chronic coughs, all of which can be used in conjunction to prescreen for COVID (or sickness in general), and with either LEDs or an associated phone app, can inform the user of these potential symptoms. While this idea would work best as a peripheral attachment to a washable mask, with waterproof components and waterproof casings it can also be made into an embedded mask system. As an extension of this idea, Aneesh Batra's amplifier mask concept could be built into the system with minimal excess costs.
Who will take these actions?
While there is potential for this mask to be commercially produced and sold (electronic component prices significantly drop when ordering in bulk), after the initial design and fabrication efforts are put in to make a proof of concept, it can be published on open source websites and made/refined by makers and institutions with access to simple electronics equipment.
What are the projected costs?
The cost of the system scales with which sensors a user decides to implement, and whether or not they buy them commercially. The most simplistic mask design would need a battery for power, a temperature sensor for monitoring, an LED for feedback display, and a device like a MOSFET for the feedback control. Temperature sensors are available at as low as $1.50, CR2032 batteries can be bought at $0.32 each, LEDs at $0.22, and a MOSFET for $0.87, so for the most basic peripheral device, it could cost <$5. For heart rate sensing and blood oxygen content, there are chips available that can do both for $16, although with some prototyping, this could potentially be made cheaper. Piezo elements, which can be used to track coughing, are available for $0.95, and if the user wants to instead use a microphone and speaker (Amplifier Mask), the cost is instead less than $5 ($0.77 + $3.95). For more advanced signal processing and connecting to a peripheral app, a microcontroller would be necessary, and could cost as little as $6.95 for a mini microcontroller.
The lower price range with limited functionality is ~$5, and the upper range with full functionality is ~$30-40.
The CAD design, prototyping and fabrication may take 2-3 weeks to iron out, but then the designs can be immediately published and released onto various open source sites such as Thingiverse and Github. Creating an associated phone app would add an extra week of development, and designing a lower cost pulse oximeter may also take a couple of weeks.
About the author(s)
Janice Tjan, Fiona Lin, Lizi Maziashvili, Joseph Morales, Aneesh Batra, and Susan Su are undergraduate researchers and high school students working at David Kong's Community Biotechnology Initiative of the MIT Media Lab.
We would like to acknowledge Ayesha Dawood, as they initially posted about the idea of a sensor based mask.