A TECHNOLOGY COMPANY is launching a first of a kind device that trains people to stop touching their face, a common transmission route for COVID-19.
The Nudge wristband, by PIVOT1080 uses behavioural science and artificial intelligence to psychologically ‘nudge’ the wearer.
It will become available in the UK when it goes on sale tomorrow (Friday 13th November).
The Nudge has been taught to differentiate between over 1,000 different hand movements, including dancing, waving and clapping, and requires no calibration or fine tuning on the part of users.
Using gesture recognition to constantly calculate hand movements, the device vibrates when it identifies the wearer is about to touch their face, sending them a warning.
These subtle vibrations effectively nudge the brain into new behaviours.
Nudge, which has an assembly base in Reading, Berkshire, was invented by entrepreneur Grant Gillon, and public health expert Luisa Zettinig, who came up with the idea at the start of lockdown following concerns for her own vulnerable family members.
The 36 year-old was inspired by her 88 year-old grandmother who is in a care home and her father who is undergoing chemotherapy for a brain tumour.
As well as encouraging wearing masks and washing hands, avoiding face touching is one of the key recommendations from WHO and the UK Government in the battle against COVID-19.
A study in Australia in 2015 showed that on average people touch their face 23 times an hour – or once every three minutes.
While not all these touches are to eyes, nose and mouth, 44% were, which means people are regularly exposing themselves unnecessarily to the risk of infection.
Other studies have shown that simply making people aware they are touching their face can reduce them doing so by 65 – 95%, which significantly decreases the opportunity for infection to spread.
Grant Gillon, CEO of PIVOT1080, the company that makes the device said: “Nudge was born out of worries for our own at-risk relatives
“They were being advised to avoid touching their faces, but how? We know that it’s a habit first formed in the womb, so it’s not exactly an easy one to break.
“We looked at what out there was to help and found nothing that people could just ‘pull out the box’ and start using to help straight away, particularly in the UK where there was nothing available at all.
“We pooled together the infectious diseases and healthcare backgrounds of the team and turned to behavioural science and tech… and that’s when the concept for Nudge began.
“It uses its namesake, nudge theory, which states that friendly pushes can encourage positive behaviours.
“This theory has been around for some time and is gaining a huge amount of attention; even the UK Government has a Behavioural Insights Team, informally known as the ‘nudge unit’.
“It’s taken months of hard work from a team of specialists and Nudge has now been taught over 1,000 hand movements and arm gestures to recognise when you’re touching your face or when you’re just waiving at someone.
“We think it could really help not only those at-risk from COVID-19, but also people who have no choice but to carry on with life and work outside the home for the time being.
“It will also be of great support for the huge numbers of people who suffer in silence from Body-Focussed Repetitive Behaviours, like nail biting, hair pulling and skin picking”.