A smartphone approach could open the way to a very simple diagnostic kit for COVID-19 that could be used on-site, whether in a clinic, a drive-through or pop-up testing facility, or an out-of-the way setting such as a rural location that’s far from a laboratory.
With just a heating plate, an LED light source, and a smartphone, Priye’s design for a portable, battery-operated kit can be used to test for the presence of virus in under an hour.
In the latest version, a deep learning neural network known as a convolutional neural network, or ConvNet, can be used to tell how much viral material is in a sample of blood or saliva, based on the pixels captured by the smartphone camera.
Once the optimal neural network is developed, it will be incorporated in a detection app running on the smartphone.
“We are exploring nontraditional image analysis techniques to improve the detection capabilities of consumer smartphones in order to perform virus detection using something extremely powerful but at the same time widely accessible to most people,” Priye explained to ZDNet.
The outlines of an extremely simple kit start to come into view: no fluorescence system, no heating pad, just a thin metal plate, some plastic tubes, a light source and a smartphone.