Hand-wash is a good hygiene practice for everyday routine, but it has been of utmost important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping this in mind, manufacturers of wearable devices have come up with new hand-washing features. Latest among them is Apple, which has introduced hand-wash feature on its watchOS 7. The Cupertino giant had started working on the feature years ago when coronavirus was nowhere in picture. Hand Washing feature is only available on Series 4 or higher Apple Watch model, running watchOS 7.
"Sensor fusion, used in the automatic handwashing detection feature, is a technique that we've been using since our early days on Apple Watch, and it provides a rich view into different activities. We're constantly looking for ways that we can combine the views from our multiple sensors or add new sensors that would provide perspectives that we don't have yet," says Kevin Lynch, VP of Technology at Apple.
In a first-of-its-kind innovation, Apple Watch uses motion sensors, microphone and on-device machine learning to automatically detect hand-washing motions and sounds. By doing this, it can automatically initiate a 20-second timer that motivates people to scrub their hands for a proper amount of time to keep them clean.
Apple has trained Watch's machine learning models to detect the motion and sound of hand-washing, for instance, running water or scrubbing sound. Once detected, the models are used to determine the continuation of the session. If the user stops before 20 seconds, the Watch will prompt to continue. To motivate people to wash their hands properly, the Apple Watch even congratulates on full 20 seconds. This works whenever people wash their hands. A user can even choose to set a reminder to wash hands when arriving home.
Working on hand-washing feature was challenging, Apple says. The process to develop a machine learning model takes a lot of time because it involves gathering a lot of data of large number of people and training algorithms accordingly. It also requires identifying hand watching correctly and differentiating it from other activities, which Apple did by correlating the sounds of hand-washing with the movements of scrubbing. Apple's automatic detection technology, when paired with a 20-second timer, means people are encouraged to wash their hands very well, every time they do.
With health and well-being at the core of Apple Watch, Apple has been continuously looking to create products that have a positive impact. Introduction of hand-washing feature is Apple's way to encourage people to spend the proper amount of time washing their hands, every time they do.