Self-test kits for people showing symptoms of COVID-19 have recently emerged as a way to alleviate pressure on healthcare workers and provide more testing to those who need it. A new coronavirus app, Coughvid, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to pinpoint the telltale dry cough exhibited by coronavirus patients.
Self-administering swab tests were shown to be as effective as clinician-administered tests according to a study led by UnitedHealth Group. But while the effectiveness is allegedly on par, there are still some concerns about false negatives. Additionally, there’s one big important missing component: A swab test cannot determine if a person’s cough sounds like one of an afflicted person. Coughvid’s goal is to solve this issue.
How it works
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), two-thirds of the people with COVID-19 produce a dry cough. This differentiates it from the typical wet cough of a common cold or allergies. It’s one of the things clinicians listen for at an in-person consult.
Based on that knowledge, researchers have compiled sound samples to train an AI system to identify this cough. The aptly named Coughvid is a web app that can run on any browser with any device with a mic. The user has to cough at it, with instructions to do it safely. It then analyzes the cough’s frequency to determine the user’s chances of having the virus.
The project is managed under Professor David Atienza at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne’s Embedded Systems Laboratory. It currently has a 70% accuracy rate, according to Slash Gear, and the team is still working on compiling more data sets as people try it out.
What are some drawbacks?
Admittedly, a tool like this cannot currently cover a large enough base to catch all cases.
“There’s that one-third of patients who are asymptomatic, so they don’t show any cough symptoms at all,” Lara Orlandic, a research assistant on the project told WBUR.
However, she added, the app can serve as a preliminary screening option as a means to put “people at ease in case they’re at home, wondering whether or not they have coronavirus.”
Another potential helpful use is sharing users’ location — the only identifying information they can agree to share — with local governments to help understand where the virus may be spreading.
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