This week, checkout operators at a supermarket in Onerahi, Whangarei, will be wearing a black ‘sleevelet’ around their elbow. Not for RSI, nor as a leftfield fashion trend, but to see if it helps them touch their face less.
Every time they bring their hand towards their face, a small sensor activated by a magnet in the sleevelet’s upper cuff will cause the sleeve to vibrate, much like a cellphone’s vibration.
People touch their faces about 20 times per hour, mostly without noticing, and Covid-19 has starkly highlighted the risk of infection from this habit. Early testing suggests that the elbow buzz alerts the wearer that they are about to touch their face and they learn to catch themselves in time.
The device, called FaceHAP, is the invention of a team mostly based at the University of Auckland who have formed the startup Elbaware (tagline: ‘smart hygiene’), a spinout from the MedTech Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE).