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Explained: Can a person’s sound be used to detect if they have COVID-19?

Some of the AI-based approaches to deal with the current pandemic include the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), which is a free resource of the research that is being done on COVID-19.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: April 9, 2020 3:15:45 pm
coronavirus tests, covid 19 tests, app tests for coronavirus, coronavirus explained, express explained, latest news A doctor wearing a protective suit takes a swab from a man, who is under home quarantine, to test for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (REUTERS/Amit Dave)

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have designed a new mobile phone app that will be used to collect data to develop machine learning algorithms, which will be able to detect if the person has COVID-19 or not based on the sound of their voice, their breathing and coughing.

How does a person’s sound help in detecting COVID-19?

A press release issued by the European Research Council (ERC) stated that since COVID-19 is a respiratory condition, the sounds made by people, including those made during breathing and coughing will be very specific. Users of the app have to take a survey, which will collect their basic demographic information and medical history and takes their sound recordings, along with samples of their breathing and coughing. The aim of the research is to collect data from both healthy and non-healthy people.

Once the researchers have collected a large database of such information, they will release it to other researchers and they hope that the dataset will help shed light on disease progression and the relationship between the respiratory complication arising out of COVID-19 with the medical history. The app will also ask if the person has tested positive for COVID-19.

Other AI-based efforts to address COVID-19

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is when machines are trained to perform human tasks. Machine learning, on the other hand, is a subset of AI and involves training machines to look for patterns in datasets, something which humans would take much longer to identify. To do this, however, machines need to be provided a considerable amount of data that they can comb through to figure out any patterns in it, which is the reason why researchers from Cambridge aim to collect a large enough data set of sounds for the machines to work on it.

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Some of the other AI-based approaches to deal with the current pandemic include the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), which is a free resource of the research that is being done on COVID-19. There is also the open-access neural network, COVID-Net, which aims to help researchers around the world develop an AI tool that can test people for COVID-19. The COVID-Net is being trained by researchers to identify signs of coronavirus in chest x-rays using roughly 6,000 images taken from over 2,800 patients with various lung conditions, including COVID-19, bacterial infections and non-COVID-19 related viral infections.

Even so, most of these AI tools are works in progress and their efficacy in detecting the disease remains to be seen.

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?

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