China is Using AI-Powered Smart Glasses to Detect Several Hundred Citizens with Fever at Once

While the coronavirus pandemic is rapidly spreading in many countries across the globe, it also seems to be slowing down in some regions. China, for example, recently announced that it will lift lockdown imposed on Hubei located in Central China as that no domestic cases were reported after a long time.

Additionally, after two months of total lockdown, the country has opened up a couple of public places that are attracting crowds. In order, to stay safe and detect people infected with the COVID-19 virus, China is equipping its officers with AI-powered smart glasses to find people with a fever, one of the symptoms of COVID-19.

Security Staff at the Hongyuan park, section of Xixi wetland preserve in Eastern China are wearing these AI-powered smart glasses which help them to detect the body temperature of the park visitors.

The specs use a thermal imaging camera to measure temperature. These glasses are capable of checking the temperature of “several hundred people within 2 minutes” to reduce queues at the park’s entrance. When the devices identify someone with a fever, they send an automatic alert to staff and make a digital record.

AI startup Rokid Corporation is the one that developed these smart glasses. Each smart specs weigh around 100 grams and more or less look like your regular pair of sunglasses. Except for the attached cable and a “thermal imaging” camera which is an obvious giveaway that these are not your everyday sunglasses.

The company said the smart glasses are being deployed this week in a bid to “reduce the possibility of large numbers of people gathering” amid efforts to enforce social distancing, especially as more public facilities across the mainland are opened after a nearly two-month shut down because of the coronavirus crisis.

The smart glasses also supports facial recognition. The facial recognition has become commonplace for many daily activities in China and greater data collection that has undoubtedly helped to prevent the coronavirus from further spreading because of precise reporting of hotspots, concerns remain about the trade-off between privacy and public health in AI applications such as Rokid’s smart glasses.

Founded in 2014 by Misa Zhu Mingming, who previously led an AI research team at Alibaba Group Holding, Rokid said it has provided “multiple sets” of its smart glasses to the public security bureau and highway police command center of Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, since January.

The specs join a growing range of thermal imaging systems searching for systems of COVID-19. Hospitalsairports, and even brothels are using the devices to test their customers, staff, and patients.

That doesn’t mean the technology is always effective.

The devices measure skin temperature, which isn’t always the same as core body temperature the key sign of a fever. They can also make mistakes (pdf). Most importantly, they can’t detect anyone infected who doesn’t have any symptoms yet.

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