In March, as COVID-19 cases in the United States began to escalate, the Centers for Disease Control and other public health officials encouraged people to avoid touching your face as this could help protect you from the disease. Responding to those guidelines, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in collaboration with the California Institute of Technology, has designed a 3D-printed necklace that pulses when the wearer brings their hand close to their face.
The new device, called PULSE, isn’t for sale; instead, the JPL has provided open-source parts and assembly instructions, including STL 3D-printing files, on their website. Parents who have helped their kids assemble a simple robot toy with a vibration motor, switch, and battery will find the process similar. Just add a tiny, infrared LED sensor/receiver unit, enclose it all in a teardrop-shaped 3D-printed pendant case, and suspend it on a cord to wear around your neck.
But can you actually contract the disease by touching your face? In May, the CDC updated its website, which now states that the virus spreads primarily through person to person contact. The site still cautions that touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes may cause infection, but it also states that this isn’t a common mode of transmission.
“If someone who is infectious coughs on their hand and shakes your hand and you rub your eyes — yes, you’re infected,” Erin Bromage, an immunologist and biology professor at the University of Massachusetts, told the New York Times in an article published May 28. “Someone’s drinking from a glass, and you pick it up near the rim and later rub your eyes or mouth, you’re infected.”
PULSE may not be the most stylish necklace, but wearing this simple, affordable device is an easy step to take that may reduce the risk of infection. Considering that stress and anxiety can make you touch your face more frequently, PULSE might provide some extra reassurance during a pandemic characterized by far too many unknowns.