Your weekend project: A DIY pendant that warns about face touching

Scientists at NASA have released instructions for a 3D-printed pendant that reminds wearers not to touch their face.

Developed by three NASA Jet Propulsion Lab scientists in their spare time, the PULSE pendant vibrates, or pulses, when a wearer’s hand nears their face, reminding them they might accidently infect themselves by transferring traces of the coronavirus to their eyes, nose or mouth.

The idea for a wearable warning device came about in the early days of the pandemic as team members remarked on how often they unconsciously touched their faces and wondered if they could build a wearable warning device.

As the lab transitioned to telework, the team collaborated virtually at night and on weekends to pursue the project, they wrote on GitHub. “After prototyping and working through sluggish online parts ordering, coupled with frequent late-night texting, facetime sessions, and 3D printing in the garage, we managed to create an operating prototype,” they said.

The pendant, designed to be worn on a necklace, is made of affordable components: a 3-volt battery, along with an infrared sensor unit, vibrating motor, wire and electronics that can be ordered online. Construction and assembly requires a 3D printer for the case, a soldering iron and solder, a wire stripper and a set of helping hands, NASA said in its brochure describing the device.

The infrared proximity sensor can detect motion at a range of up to 12 inches. Once motion is detected, a vibration motor is triggered. The closer the moving object is to the sensor, the stronger the vibration.

The assembled pendent is less than two inches long and should be worn 6-12 inches below the chin when attached by an 18- to 24-inch necklace.

NASA put the list of parts, STL files and assembly instructions on GitHub so individuals or companies can replicate, refine or enhance PULSE and make it easily available for distribution.

PULSE, NASA cautioned in its explanatory video, is only intended to be another defensive measure in fighting the spread of contagion and “and is not meant to take to place of masks or respirators.” It also stated that PULSE has not been approved by FDA nor has it received medical device emergency use authorizations. 


About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.


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