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Researchers create a ‘smart’ mask for COVID-19 with a speaker and translation software

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A Japanese technology company has developed a new Bluetooth-powered smart mask that uses a speaker to amplify a person’s voice.

Called ‘c-mask,’ the device can also covert a person’s speech into text and then translate it into eight different languages through a smartphone app.

The mask was developed by Donut Robotics, which initially raised seven million yen, or around $260,000, to fund its development through the Japanese crowdfunding site Fundinno.

Donut Robotics has developed a new smart mask to protect against COVID-19 transmission, which also contains a built-in speaker to amplify a person's voice and connects to a smartphone app that can translate speech into eight languages

Donut Robotics has developed a new smart mask to protect against COVID-19 transmission, which also contains a built-in speaker to amplify a person's voice and connects to a smartphone app that can translate speech into eight languages

Donut Robotics has developed a new smart mask to protect against COVID-19 transmission, which also contains a built-in speaker to amplify a person’s voice and connects to a smartphone app that can translate speech into eight languages

According to Donut, around 5,000 masks are currently planned to be produced and distributed in Japan this September, where they’ll retail for 3,980 yen, or around $37.

The company will also charge an additional monthly subscription fee to access translation services, according to a report in Japan Today – though the exact pricing hasn’t been announced.

The supported languages include English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian.

Users will also be able to use the mask’s built-in microphone to create recordings of business meetings that will then be stored on the connected smartphone.

The mask was designed as a shell that’s meant to slide over any standard commercial mask used to protect against COVID-19 transmission, with the straps running through two small slits on either side. 

The mask was based, in part, on one of the company’s earlier projects, a desktop helper robot called ‘Cinnamon’ that’s used at reception desks and customer service stands to help answer basic questions.

Called 'c-mask,' the device is a shell that can be slid into any traditional face mask. 5,000 masks will be sent to Japanese buyers in September and will retail for around $37, or 3,980 yen

Called 'c-mask,' the device is a shell that can be slid into any traditional face mask. 5,000 masks will be sent to Japanese buyers in September and will retail for around $37, or 3,980 yen

Called ‘c-mask,’ the device is a shell that can be slid into any traditional face mask. 5,000 masks will be sent to Japanese buyers in September and will retail for around $37, or 3,980 yen

The mask will convert the wearer's speech into text and then translate it into French, Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian, Korean, English, or Japanese through a smartphone app

The mask will convert the wearer's speech into text and then translate it into French, Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian, Korean, English, or Japanese through a smartphone app

The mask will convert the wearer’s speech into text and then translate it into French, Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian, Korean, English, or Japanese through a smartphone app

Donut Robotics says it has also received strong interest in the 'c-mask' from buyers in the US, Europe, and China

Donut Robotics says it has also received strong interest in the 'c-mask' from buyers in the US, Europe, and China

Donut Robotics says it has also received strong interest in the ‘c-mask’ from buyers in the US, Europe, and China

‘We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society,’ Donut Robotics’ Taisuke Ono said.

Donut ultimately hopes it will be able to release the mask outside of Japan, and says it has received strong interest from buyers in the US, Europe, and China.

The c-mask could evolve to support other functions as well, including some augmented reality  features, which Donut says will be possible to implement using a built-in Wifi receiver.

However, the company hasn’t described just how AR features would be integrated into the mask.

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One in five people aged over 55 admit to feeling peer pressured into drinking MORE alcohol

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One in five people aged over 55 years of age admit to feeling peer pressured into drinking more alcohol than they otherwise would, a study has found. 

The investigation by independent alcohol education charity Drinkaware found that peer pressure is felt by all ages — but impacts older generations in different ways.

While they may think they are ‘older and wiser’ and immune to such influence, seniors are still vulnerable but less likely to identify peer pressure as being overt.

Instead, older adults tend to see pressure to drink more as part of being sociable — or as a mere form of ‘friendly banter’. 

One in five people aged over 55 years of age admit to feeling peer pressured into drinking more alcohol than they otherwise would, a survey has found (stock image)

One in five people aged over 55 years of age admit to feeling peer pressured into drinking more alcohol than they otherwise would, a survey has found (stock image)

One in five people aged over 55 years of age admit to feeling peer pressured into drinking more alcohol than they otherwise would, a survey has found (stock image)

DRINKING SAFELY 

UK charity Drinkaware has advised that — if people do drink alcohol — that they keep track of their consumption.

Drinkers should stay within the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines, they added.

These recommend drinking no more than 14 units per week, with such spread over at least three days.

Drinkaware also advocates for people taking at least three drink-free days every week.

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‘Whether it’s topping up someone’s glass without asking, encouraging a group to buy in rounds or incorporating drinks into social rituals, peer pressure comes in many guises,’ said Drinkaware Evidence and Research Associate Emma Catterall.

‘Our study shows that being older doesn’t make us immune to the peer pressure to drink. In fact, it suggests we actually just don’t recognise pressurising behaviours.’

In their study, Dr Catterall and colleagues reviewed 13 existing studies into peer pressure in the context of alcohol consumption among adults — alongside Drinkaware’s online survey of 2,145 adults into peer pressure.

The researchers found that younger people are more likely to identify peer pressure as being overt or even aggressive — making them more likely to regard such influence as being negative. 

Accordingly, over 60 per cent of drinkers aged 18–34 said that pressure to drink was common among their peers.

This figure fell to 29 per cent among adult drinkers between the ages of 35–54, however, and 20 per cent of those aged 55 or above. 

However, the researchers also found that while young people tend to drink less frequently than their seniors, they are more likely to binge drink when they do.

In fact, only 44 per cent of under 35-year-olds reported drinking at least weekly, compared with 52 per cent of those aged 35–54 and 58 per cent of over 55s.

Yet 67 per cent said that they indulged in binge drinking — compared with 61 per cent of 35–54-year-olds and just 45 per cent of those aged 55 or above.

Regardless of the age group, the research suggested that peer pressure can be significant in increasing the amount of alcohol that people drink — and that most who gave in to the influence reported regretting the indulgence later.

‘In the majority of cases, pressure to drink isn’t malicious and may not even be conscious. But if we drink more alcohol as a result of pressure, we could be risking our health,’ Dr Catterall added.

‘We all need to know how to recognise when we’re being pressured to drink or when we’re pressuring someone else to drink.’

‘Being aware can help us with strategies to avoid caving in, or make sure others don’t feel like they have to drink alcohol if they don’t want to.’

The investigation by independent alcohol education charity Drinkaware found that peer pressure is felt by all ages — but impacts older generations in different ways. While they may think they are 'older and wiser' and immune to such influence, seniors are still vulnerable but less likely to identify peer pressure as being overt (stock image)

The investigation by independent alcohol education charity Drinkaware found that peer pressure is felt by all ages — but impacts older generations in different ways. While they may think they are 'older and wiser' and immune to such influence, seniors are still vulnerable but less likely to identify peer pressure as being overt (stock image)

The investigation by independent alcohol education charity Drinkaware found that peer pressure is felt by all ages — but impacts older generations in different ways. While they may think they are ‘older and wiser’ and immune to such influence, seniors are still vulnerable but less likely to identify peer pressure as being overt (stock image)

The research also suggested that many people develop strategies to dodge pressure to drink further — including driving to social events to avoid having to drink, or pretending that their soft drink is in fact alcoholic.

In addition, some people reported choosing to spent time with friends who were moderate- or non-drinkers in order to avoid pressure to drink more.  

‘The danger is that if people interpret peer pressure, or encouragement to drink, as part and parcel of convivial drinking culture, it could become seen as acceptable behaviour,’ said Dr Catterall.

‘The reality is that peer pressure to drink, in whatever form, encourages people to drink more than they might intend. And this can have consequences for their health.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal BMC Public Health.

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PG Tips will remove all plastic packaging from its products by next year

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One of the largest tea brands in the UK, PG Tips, is removing all plastic packing from next year and will switch to biodegradable plant-based teabags. 

The bags are made from corn starch and were first introduced on a limited range of products in 2018, but this latest move will see all of their teas use these bags.

The tea company has also removed the outer plastic wrap on its 160-pack boxes with plans to remove the outer plastic wrap from the rest of the sizes next year.

Unilever says that the new plant-based materials would provide retailers with a product that ‘shoppers are actively looking for’ and help the environment.

A Harvard Business Review survey found consumers were five times more likely to buy sustainable products, which has prompted many firms to start to change lines.

The tea company has also removed the outer plastic wrap on its 160-pack boxes with plans to remove the outer plastic wrap from the rest of the sizes next year

The tea company has also removed the outer plastic wrap on its 160-pack boxes with plans to remove the outer plastic wrap from the rest of the sizes next year

The tea company has also removed the outer plastic wrap on its 160-pack boxes with plans to remove the outer plastic wrap from the rest of the sizes next year 

Fiachra Moloney, UK & Ireland Tea Director at brand-owner Unilever, told trade magazine The Grocer that the company had been working towards making the switch to a fully plant-based product for several years. 

‘The switch to working with this new material has not been without its challenges due to the size, speed and scale of our operation,’ he said. 

‘We have been continuously adjusting factory lines so that now all our boxes contain biodegradable pyramid teabags.’ 

Unilever says it is ‘extremely proud’ to be the first major tea brand to switch to biodegradable bags across its entire range.

The firm says the brand’s new sustainable credentials would be played up on both the front and back of the new-look packs.

Back in 2018 Uniliver became the first major mainstream tea brand to switch to biodegradable teabags on some products. 

This extends that by only using the new bags, that are free of polypropylene – a chemical used to give pyramid bags their shape. 

According to a YouGov survey PG Tips is the second most consumed beverage brand in the UK – after Robinsons and just ahead of Schweppes.

This forms part of a wider series of measures by PG Tips parent company Unilever to fight climate change and ‘preserve resources for future generations’. 

The firm said it was committed to improve the health of of the planet including achieving net zero emissions by 2039 and working with more smallholders to protect and restore forests. 

Uniliver plans to invest £900 million spread over all of its brands in a new climate and nature fund designed to take action to improve the planet over the next decade.

Unilever says that the new plant-based materials would provide retailers with a product that 'shoppers are actively looking for' and help the environment

Unilever says that the new plant-based materials would provide retailers with a product that 'shoppers are actively looking for' and help the environment

Unilever says that the new plant-based materials would provide retailers with a product that ‘shoppers are actively looking for’ and help the environment

Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, said: ‘While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality, we can’t let ourselves forget that the climate crisis is still a threat to all of us. 

‘Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity – all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously.’ 

This push for net zero could see PG Tips put on the market by Uniliver, according to trade magazine The Grocer.

Jope said in 2019 it wasn’t for sale but that the company was carrying out a full strategic review of its tea business with its impact on the environment as a factor. 

He said the tea business had a ‘disproportionately large footprint in black tea which is slower-growing’ and a ‘long track record of being dilutive to growth and margin, so this strategic review announcement means we want to investigate how we can best create value for stakeholders.’ 

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The Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch is now better-than-half-price in the Amazon Summer Sale

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The Amazon Summer Sale 2020 is here! Amazon is discounting thousands of products over the next six days, including some epic savings on wireless and tech devices.

From great-value wireless headphones to innovative smartwatches and Amazon smart devices, the mega-retailer is offering a host of great deals that you won’t want to miss.  

Thanks to the Amazon Summer Sale you can now get the all-singing-all-dancing Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch for a huge 53 per cent off. Now reduced to a very enticing £139.99, there has never been a better time to invest in a new smartwatch. 

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch with Built-In Sports Apps and Wrist Heart Rate is now only £139.99 on Amazon- that's a saving of 53 per cent

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch with Built-In Sports Apps and Wrist Heart Rate is now only £139.99 on Amazon- that's a saving of 53 per cent

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch with Built-In Sports Apps and Wrist Heart Rate is now only £139.99 on Amazon- that’s a saving of 53 per cent

With over 8,000 reviews on Amazon and an overall score of 4.3 out of 5 stars, the Garmin Vicoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch is a hugely popular multi-purpose watch. 

There is something for everyone with this savvy timepiece. A fantastic choice for fitness enthusiasts in particular, the Garmin Vivoactive watch allows you to track your sporting achievements throughout the day with built-in GPS, sports apps and wrist-based heart rate.

Not only does it track your steps, but the Vivoactive 3 has 15 pre-loaded sports apps for you to use, so whatever you enjoy doing your smartphone will help you stay active. 

Whether you want to hit the golf course, go for a cycle, take to the pool or attend a yoga class, the built-in GPS tracks your activities with no need for a phone connection. 

Hate taking your phone out with you when on a run? With the Garmin Vivoactive watch you can pair it with a compatible smartphone to receive and respond to text messages on-the-go. The Garmin Pay also means you’ll have a virtual wallet on your wrist too, so you can pick up a coffee after your morning run without needing to carry card or cash with you.

The built in Garmin Pay means you can go on your run or bike ride without carrying your phone, card or cash

The built in Garmin Pay means you can go on your run or bike ride without carrying your phone, card or cash

The built in Garmin Pay means you can go on your run or bike ride without carrying your phone, card or cash 

The watch has up to seven days battery life in smartwatch mode; 13 hours in GPS mode

The watch has up to seven days battery life in smartwatch mode; 13 hours in GPS mode

The watch has up to seven days battery life in smartwatch mode; 13 hours in GPS mode

On top of all these features, the watch also allows you to track your heart rate variability (HRV), which is used to calculate and track your stress level. Stress levels getting high? Then the Garmin will alert you.

It has a seven-day battery life too- that’s almost twice as long as the popular FitBit Versa – in smartwatch mode, and 13 hours in GPS mode if you’re using it for maps, distance and location. 

One delighted customer wrote: ‘I have been wondering about getting a running watch for a year but always manged with phone apps. This has made me wish I had made the leap a long time ago. 

‘Very comfortable, easy to set up and customise. GPS is fantastic (easily links to Strava). Plenty of flexibility and features I am yet yo work though but has been great for monitoring running and cycling. Step counter, hear rate monitor etc all very good.’

Another added: ‘I use it to monitor my runs and I can’t find a fault. It is very reliable, accurate and it offers at a glance all information I need when running. In addition is highly customisable, very light and super comfortable.’

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