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Fighting the Virus

AFP Relaxnews
AFP Relaxnews • 5 min read
Fighting the Virus
An app to monitor your blood pressure, a cleaning robot, and coping with the extended circuit breaker measures.
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SINGAPORE (Apr 30): An app to monitor your blood pressure, a cleaning robot, and coping with the extended circuit breaker measures.

Samsung app to monitor blood pressure

Samsung’s upcoming Health Monitor application has been cleared by South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, officially certifying it as a “government-cleared, over-the-counter and cuffless blood pressure monitoring application”. Samsung officially announced the news in a YouTube video and demonstrated how its Galaxy smartwatches will soon be able to monitor and track the wearer’s blood pressure via the app. To enable the device to do so, users must first calibrate the watch with a cuff-based blood pressure monitor.

After completing this process, users can take a blood pressure measurement via their watch any time they desire. The watch should be worn on the same wrist it was on when it was calibrated, and and should be recalibrated every four months. All readings — either individual measurements or an average over time — can be synced to the complementary smartphone application and viewed by day, week, or month. This feature will only be usable by Galaxy Watch Active2 owners and will be rolled out during the third quarter of this year; however, the company has plans to roll it out to upcoming Galaxy watches, as well.

Disinfecting robot trialled in virus fight

Singapore researchers have invented a disinfecting robot with an arm that mimics human movement, to help take the load off overworked cleaners during the coronavirus pandemic. The XDBOT is a box-shaped creation on wheels mounted with a dexterous robotic limb, which can reach awkward locations such as under tables and beds. Built by researchers at the citystate’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the robot has a high-powered nozzle for spraying disinfectant and can tackle large surfaces rapidly.

It can be controlled remotely with a laptop or tablet, reducing the risk to cleaners of becoming infected with the virus, which has killed over 140,000 people worldwide. “Using our new robot from a distance, a human operator can precisely control the disinfection process... with zero contact with surfaces,” said Chen I-Ming, an NTU scientist who led the project. The cleaning robot differs from others on the market, which are mainly intended to clean floor surfaces and cannot disinfect odd-shaped objects.

The robot could help meet growing calls in Singapore for more deep-cleaning and disinfection services, following reports suggesting that cleaners are having to work long hours as demand explodes during the pandemic. The XDBOT has been trialled on the NTU campus, and its creators hope to test it in more public areas and hospitals. From Thailand to Israel, robots are increasingly being used in the fight against the coronavirus, as they are seen as fast, efficient, and contagion-proof.

Activities to cope better with staying at home

New research has found that if you are struggling to cope with the current Covid-19 lockdowns, then finding your “flow” in a new hobby could help. Carried out by researchers at University of California Riverside, US, along with the Central China Normal University and Nanjing University in China, the study looked at 5,115 Chinese participants aged from 15 to 71. The participants were asked to complete surveys during the peak of China’s Covid-19 quarantine to assess their well-being during the previous week.

The surveys also assessed how two coping methods could help the participants deal with the stress of the lockdown: mindfulness, which is focusing on the present moment through meditation or other mindfulness practices; and flow, which is the state of being completely immersed in an activity, so immersed that it is difficult to think of anything else. The researchers explain that various activities can help people achieve flow depending on how challenging they are, including playing video games, studying a foreign language, baking, woodworking and jogging.

Popular pastimes such as reading and watching TV are not classified as flow activities. The findings, which have not yet been published in a journal but are available online as a pre-print version, showed that unsurprisingly, the participants were less happy living under quarantine than when they were not in quarantine.

Moreover, the longer the quarantine lasted, the unhappier the participants became. However, taking part in flow activities appeared to help boost participants’ well-being, with the team finding that those who found their flow reported more positive emotion, less severe depressive symptoms, less loneliness, more healthy behaviours and fewer unhealthy behaviours. In addition, the benefits of flow activities increased the longer the quarantine lasted. Kate Sweeny, a professor of psychology at UC Riverside, comments that finding the right activity for you during quarantine could lead to the same level of well-being during quarantine as what you experience when not under lockdown.

“It’s a bold statement. But there are lots of reasons for this, and the data are compelling,” she says. “Flow seems to mitigate the negative effects of quarantine.” “Flow significantly moderated the relationship between quarantine length and most measures of well-being,” the authors report in the study. “As a quarantine wears on, people may find that the tedium of isolation allows their worries to run wild, with little else to keep their mind occupied. If instead people can find activities that absorb their attention, the days feel shorter and the weeks, therefore, more tolerable.” “The time will pass more quickly if you find your flow,” adds Sweeney. “When you’re feeling antsy, look for activities that are engaging.”

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