All posts by Lucy Ingham

Revolutionary smartphone app uses light to diagnose malaria

A smartphone app with a revolutionary technique to diagnose malaria has been launched in Uganda.

Matibabu is an app for Windows Phone that works with a custom piece of hardware called a Matiscope. The Matiscope is a finger clamp with a built-in infrared light source and sensor that attaches to the phone.

Matibabu team member Josiah Kavuma explained: “The idea basically works with red light. Light is triggered into the skin to reach the red blood cells. Light is used to determine the state of the red blood cells to determine one’s malaria status.”

The test takes less than two minutes and the results are stored in the user’s Microsoft Skydrive account so they can share them with their doctor.

Matibabu – which takes its name from the Swahili word for medical clinic – represents a significant improvement in testing for malaria.

Ordinarily, malaria needs to be diagnosed by drawing and testing blood, which is not only painful but represents a significant expense for medical organisations.

The disease is particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of all malaria-related deaths occur, but medical coverage in the region is by no means comprehensive.

Matibabu is designed to provide a more affordable and accessible testing option with no pain involved, and the team believe it has the potential to reduce the socio-economic costs of malaria for 300 – 500 million people.

Early diagnosis would help to improve treatment, meaning the technology could have a significant role to play in the fight against malaria.

“Our vision is to see the solution being used all over the world to detect malaria cases early,” said Kavuma. “Hence early treatment will save many lives and many unborn babies as many mothers have had miscarriages because of malaria during pregnancy.”

The diagnosis technology was invented after Brian Gitta, a malaria sufferer and computer science student at Uganda’s Makerere University, decided to develop a better way to detect malaria.

“I hated the needles and kept thinking of ways people could be diagnosed without pain,” Gitta explained.

He teamed up with friends and fellow students Joshua Businge, Josiah Kavuma and Simon Lubambo, and together they developed the Matibabu.

Although not yet in mass production, the Matibabu has already attracted considerable attention. The team has won the Microsoft Innovation Cup and a USAID contest for innovations to help developing countries, and recently showcased the prototype at MakeTechX in Berlin, Germany.

Image courtesy of Sergio Sanchez.

Video via Matibabu’s blog.

Drones make their catwalk debut at Milan Fashion Week

Drones have begun to sneak into our lives in many ways, but until now they have not found their way into fashion. That changed yesterday when luxury fashion house Fendi used a drone to provide fans with coverage of their fall/winter 2014-15 collection.

The collection, which was showcased at Milan Fashion Week, was viewable live from Fendi’s website via two streams: one a professionally shot and cut stream and one a rather shaky, fuzzy feed from the drone.

A partnership between Fendi and Google, the drone stream felt more like a proof-of-concept than an impressive technological showcase, but received a surprisingly positive response from both fans and industry professionals alike.

For avid fashion fans wishing they were actually at the show, it seems that the drone did a better job of conveying the atmosphere than the regular video feed.

Writing in fashion mag Birdee, Chloe Sargeant explained: “The drones flew over models’ and guests’ heads, giving an online audience a birds eye view of each look front and back, as well as the venue, runway and vibe of the entire show.”

But it seems to be more about the concept of drones than the reality of what they produced.

The Guardian quoted Lowe & Partners trend forecaster Zoe Lazarus explaining this phenomenon: “Drones feel edgy and futuristic – they appeal to that vision of a cyborg future. Creatively they are brilliant, because they can be manoeuvred into places where people can’t.

“This is a bit of a coup for Fendi… Live streams have become quite standard now at fashion shows, so this is a way to up the ante and get social media coverage.”

While the video quality wasn’t fantastic, the Fendi show could mark the start of drones being used to cover exclusive events with large public followings.

Concerts and festivals could make use of drones to provide new video coverage options for fans, and drones could even find their way onto sports grounds to provide new camera angles for avid fans.

But as is often the case, this could well become a premium service, particularly in sports such as football where teams are looking to generate as many additional revenue streams as possible.

Whether paid-for or free, drone-generated streams will have to improve considerably if they are to reach a level of mass appeal among fans and consumers. For now, they remain a gimmick to be utilised by companies looking to boost their media coverage.

Image courtesy of Fendi.