Can AI Help Us Fight COVID?

COVID-19 has already taken thousands of lives, here’s how we can fight it with AI

For months, the coronavirus has infected hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Many governments and health organizations are still struggling to manage the spread of the virus. Some have been using artificial intelligence to help them track the outbreak, diagnose patients, and speed up the process for finding a cure. UXAX explains how data science and machine learning can help us fight against this devastating pandemic.

Tracking the Virus Using Machine Learning

Before the start of 2020, BlueDot, an artificial intelligence platform used to track outbreaks, found a cluster of unusual “pneumonia” cases near a market in Wuhan, China. 9 days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the discovery of a “novel coronavirus” in a patient in Wuhan.

BlueDot searches for early signs of infectious epidemics using natural language processing and machine learning algorithms. Using statements from health organizations, news reports, commercial flights, and more, BlueDot’s AI algorithms can also find critical information regarding the spread of a virus. By finding correlations between different data points, such as the movement patterns of people living in heavily-infected areas, BlueDot even identified which cities the virus would be transferred to after its original start in Wuhan.

Employing Computer Vision to Detect Infection

Nowadays, COVID-19 screenings greet travelers arriving at different border crossings and airports. During these screenings, health officers use thermometer guns to screen people for COVID symptoms such as fever, coughing, and breathing difficulties. Computer vision algorithms can perform the same duties at a much larger scale.

A new AI system developed by Chinese tech company Baidu uses cameras with computer vision and infrared sensors to predict different people’s temperatures in public places. This sophisticated system can scan up to 200 people per minute and detect their temperatures within 0.5 degrees Celsius.

Robots on the Frontlines

One of the most effective methods for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus is to reduce contact between infected patients and workers. To keep hospital workers safe, organizations are attempting to automate procedures that previously required healthcare workers to interact with patients. Robots are even being used to deliver food and medicine to patients. After rooms empty, these robots also come in to clean and disinfect them.

AI and Drug Research

Until researchers discover a vaccine for coronavirus, the world must continue to fight it using careful social distancing and sanitation practices. But developing a new vaccine is always a lengthy and costly process. Past vaccines have cost billions of dollars and years of research to develop. But as the virus continues to accelerate, the world has little time to wait for a virus.

Luckily, artificial intelligence can help speed up this arduous process. AI research lab DeepMind has already started to use deep learning to discover new information about the different protein structures associated with COVID-19. Understanding these protein structures is critical for finding important clues and insights into the future coronavirus vaccine formula.

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