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Covid update: 04 February 2021

04 Feb 2021

A round up of this week's coronavirus-related news and countermeasures from the photonics industry.

The Belgian initiative icovid, which supports radiologists in the assessment of CT images of the lungs of Covid-19 patients, has grown into a multicenter European project, co-funded by the EU Horizon 2020 program.

Icovid was set up in March, 2020, by UZ Brussel, KU Leuven, icometrix and ETRO, an imec research group of VUB. Professor Jef Vandemeulebroucke of ETRO commented, “What started as a local project is now being rolled out in 800 hospitals in Europe and supported by excellent research centers all over Europe.

“With icolung, we can detect Covid-19 patients at an early stage and quantify the extent of lung lesions. Meanwhile, we are further improving the AI software to identify lung damage from Covid-19 even more quickly, and to determine the further care path of the patient faster and better through prognostic models.”

icovid was established as a Belgian pro bono initiative. Icometrix, which specializes in AI solutions for medical images, partnered with UZ Brussel, KU Leuven, VUB and imec to investigate how to deploy lung scans in the Covid pandemic and what AI software would be needed to do so. The AI tool icolung was born.

Prof Johan de Mey, VUB-UZ Brussel, said, “At the time, there was insufficient testing capacity to quickly test all patients. With icolung, we wanted to use lung scans as a triage tool. By using CT and with the help of the AI analyses, we were able to trace patients with suspicious lung lesions and have them tested as a priority. During the busiest periods, everyone who entered the UZ Brussel as a patient was scanned, also as a means of preventing COVID-19 outbreaks in the hospital.”

Free for all hospitals in Europe

Icolung, which was certified in April, 2020, is currently being used by over 75 hospitals worldwide and has analyzed over 35,000 lung CT scans. The icovid project now builds on the development of icolung and is committed to scaling up, thanks to the commitment of renowned research institutes such as King’s College London, Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg, University of Oxford, Maastricht University, the University of Liège and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire of Liège.

The partners will also collaborate with The Medical Cloud Company to incorporate other clinical information into the models in addition to CT images. Icovid receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

Thanks to this financial support, icolung can be offered free of charge to hospitals across Europe. While vaccination will eventually normalize daily life, the virus will still circulate and other coronaviruses may emerge. In local outbreaks, it will be important to identify Covid-19 patients early.

Measuring student attention during remote learning

The Covid-19 pandemic has made home offices, virtual meetings and remote learning the norm, and it is likely here to stay. But are people paying attention in online meetings? Are students paying attention in virtual classrooms? Researchers Jens Madsen and Lucas C. Parra from City College of New York, have demonstrated how eye tracking can measure the level of attention online using standard web cameras, without the need to transfer any data from peoples computers, thus preserving privacy.

In a paper entitled Synchronized eye movements predict test scores in online video education, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they show that just by looking at students eyes they can predict how well students will do on quizzes based on educational videos.

“Experienced teachers pay close attention to their students, adjusting their teaching when students seem lost. This dynamic interaction is missing in online education,” said Madsen. “But in our study, we proposed to measure attention to online videos remotely by tracking eye movements and hypothesized that attentive students follow videos similarly with their eyes.”

The CCNY team has shown that inter-subject correlation of eye-movements during educational video presentation is substantially higher for attentive students, and that synchronized eye movement are predictive of individual test scores on the material presented in the video.

Their results suggest that online education can be made adaptive to a student's level of attention in real-time.

“The internet has turned attention into a commodity," commented researcher Lucas Parra from City College of New York. “With video content increasing online, remote sensing of attention to video at scale may have applications beyond education, including entertainment, advertising, or politics. The applications are limitless.”

LED manufacturer Nichia has launched the NCSU334B deep UV LED, which delivers a peak wavelength of 280 nm. The company says that independent research confirms the LED is “best-in-class for disinfection performance against SARS-CoV-2 virus”.

Nichia’s UV-C LED technology was extensively tested at Tokushima University to demonstrate its bacteria and virus disinfection efficiencies. Experiments conducted by the university’s Biomedical Sciences department confirmed that irradiating SARS-CoV-2 with Nichia’s NCSU334B for 30s, with 51mJ/cm2, exhibited 99.99% inactivation, a key activation log to achieve.

Additionally, the experiment was operated based of the NCSU334B’s binned input power and conditions of 1.7mJ/cm2 and 5 cm distance. There remains adequate room to reduce the time or increase the dosage depending on the conditions or the design of its working distance, the number of LEDs or the input power. For example, when designing with half the working distance, the performance increases 4 times.

Nichia has scaled up its investment in R&D and manufacturing capacity for its UV LED solutions. Now in mass production, the NCSU334B at 280 nm achieves industry-leading output, efficiency and lifetime. It delivers a typical irradiance of 70mW with a wall-plug efficiency of 3.6%, an improvement of 27% compared to its predecessor. With a hermetic seal, the solution also provides long lifetime performance, especially at peak temperatures and humidity levels.

Resolve Optics launches ‘smarter working initiative’

A specialist in application-optimized lenses and optical systems Resolve Optics, Chesham, UK, has announced that as of 1st February 2021 it is implementing a 4-days on, 3-days off, work pattern to improve the work life balance of its employees.

This move follows announcement of “exceedingly good half year results where profits were up 10% on the same period in the previous year,” the company sated.

Mark Pontin, Managing Director of Resolve, commented, “We have taken this decision, not just, off the back of our half year results, but also as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic which has forced us to look at how we work and how we stay connected with customers. It has shown us that we can work smarter, more efficiently and most importantly more productively as a motivated team.

“All of Resolve’s employees will have their contracted hours of work reduced from 37.5 hours per week down to 36 hours per week. Instead of working five 7.5-hour days they will work four 9-hour days. Salaries will not be affected. This will enable us to operate a 4-days on 3 days off work pattern which I feel will provide a much better work life balance”.

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