Translation tools, air purifiers, face masks go high- tech while online tools to help prevent burnout

From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the coronavirus-fuelled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings.

As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to both guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend.

One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The C-Face mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app and allows people to have a conversation while keeping up to 10 metres apart.

“Despite the coronavirus, we some- times need to meet directly with each other,” Donut Robotics chief executive Taisuke Ono told AFP.

The lightweight silicone device could have immediate benefits for people such as doctors who want to communicate with patients from a distance, the company says.

It can translate speech from Japanese into English, Korean and other languages — a function that will become more useful once travel restrictions are eventually eased.

But it does not offer protection from Covid-19 on its own and is designed to be worn over a regular face covering when it goes on sale in February for about JPY4,000 ($52.26).

Donut Robotics raised nearly JPY100 million via crowdfunding to develop it, a success Ono believes was driven by a desire for innovations to make life easier during the pandemic.

“We may be able to fight the virus with technology, with human wisdom,” he said. Another face mask developed in Singa- pore is aimed at protecting medics treat- ing Covid-19 patients. It has sensors that monitor body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels.

It then relays this data to a smartphone via a Bluetooth transmitter.

“Many of these frontline workers will be exposed to patients when they are taking their vital signs,” Loh Xian Jun, one of the scientists behind the invention, told AFP. “This poses a health risk to the nurses, and we wanted to think about a way to reduce such risk.”

Its inventors say the device could also monitor vital signs of migrant workers in crowded dormitories, which incubated massive virus outbreaks in the city-state this year. They hope to trial it in the near future and market it commercially.

For those seeking to combat the effects of pollution in smog-choked cities, South Korea’s LG Electronics has developed an air purifier mask.

The futuristic white device — which fits snugly around the wearer’s mouth, nose and chin — is equipped with two filters on either side and fans to aid airflow. The filters are similar to those in the company’s home air purifiers, and can block 99.95 percent of harmful particles.

Thousands have already been made available to medical staff and it will also be rolled out in shops in the future, the company says.

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Online tools ease the burnout

When pressures from work and other responsibilities are too intense and start impeding on your personal life, especial- ly in this time when working from home can add to stresses, the risk of mental exhaustion looms large. Fortunately, many online services and mobile applications exist to analyse the situation and offer tips to avoid a breakdown. We recommend:

Risk assessment

If you are really nervous and exhausted, take the two-minute Burnout Index test. With ten assertions like “I find it difficult to relax after a day of work” or “I feel less and less connected and engaged with the work I do”, the app allows you to personally evaluate your level of stress and get a burnout index. Visit https:// burnoutindex.org for more information.

Time management

Do you know the Doropomo technique of work time management? It reverses the Pomodoro technique and its 25 minutes of work followed by short five-minute resting periods. The Doropomo technique starts with 25 minutes of relaxation followed by a five-minute work time. Longer work time slots between 15 and 20 minutes can be then added. This technique takes a novel approach to professional productivity and aims to help you to stay focused all day to avoid professional burnout. Visit https://doropomo.app to learn more.

Your own well-being assistant

This application offers a multitude of tips and activities depending on your mood and wishes, whether you want to focus on better health, improving your relationships or getting organised. It also acts like a personal coach that reminds you of your objectives and proposes new activities. Who knows, using this app could mean that your workdays could even feel lighter. Download at https://growapp. me (only available for iOS users only).

Share your thoughts and insecurities

Project Trill was developed as a safe place to express your thoughts without being judged. Unlike conventional social networks, it favours sharing and caring anonymously, without the aggression and trolling often seen on Twitter and Face- book. Head to https://trillproject.com to learn more.

Breathe in, breathe out

In order to reduce your stress, a variety of breathing techniques exist. Based on soothing methods from Pranayama, Sufi and Tibetan practises, each technique in this application is detailed and explained, with practical tips and simple exercises. Only seven to 15 minutes a day can entail quick results on your mood and well-being. Only available for Android users, the Prana Breath app can be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store.