MIT Media Lab spinoff Empatica has been selected by the US Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) to deploy an AI-driven wearable that enables the early and pre-symptomatic detection of Covid-19.

The project’s focus is on protecting the health of the general population by preventing outbreaks via early detection and alerting.

Empatica’s Aura algorithm gives a daily risk-indication of an individual having contracted Covid-19, using physiological data collected by Empatica’s medical smartwatch, EmbracePlus.

Commander Christopher Steele, Director of the Military Operational Medicine Research Program at USAMRDC, said: “Use of wearable tech to prevent the rapid spread of Covid-19 within our units is an important capability.

“Key Industry partners are well positioned to help the DoD (Department of Defence) in this regard.

The initiative is multi-phased, beginning with the clinical validation of Empatica’s algorithm on healthy participants at risk of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19.

FDA submissions for regulatory approvals will run in parallel with the project, which will conclude in a virtual clinical study on participants opting in to test and further validate the technology.

Empatica CEO Matteo Lai said: “It is a privilege for our team to participate in the effort to combat Covid-19 together with the USAMRDC.

“The department arguably has the world’s best track record in sponsoring and fostering groundbreaking technologies.

“Their inspiration to intervene and act with this initiative brings into sharp focus the impact Covid-19 has had in our daily lives, as well as the need to work together to face the challenge.

“This is not only a technological race against time, but also a civic responsibility in employing our experience against a threat to our health and economy.”


How does Empatica Covid-19 detection wearable work?

The hardware consists of EmbracePlus, a medical device built into a smartwatch with clinical-grade sensors that measure heart rate, heart rate variability, temperature, respiratory rate, and electrodermal activity.

The device monitors a person’s vitals, and sends in-app alerts for patterns suggestive of Covid-19 infection, helping wearers self isolate and seek testing without unwittingly infecting others.

Earlier this year, Empatica partnered with The US Department of Health and Human Services to validate Aura’s Covid-19 detection capabilities on at-risk healthcare workers.

Furthering this, the firm hopes work with the USAMRDC will provide additional resources to deploy Aura to the general population.