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Kiosks help stop spread of coronavirus at UNC-CH football games

Students and staff at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill have rolled out new artificial intelligence technology.

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Kirsten Gutierrez
, WRAL reporter
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Students and staff at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill are using artificial intelligence technology to help slow the spread of the coronavirus as fans return to on-campus sporting events. Students and staff at the Reese Innovation Lab designed kiosks that will greet fans and make sure they are following coronavirus safety protocols.

"We've ultimately found that we could use computer vision to detect if people were wearing their masks and social distancing," explained Steven King, the chief innovation officer at Reese Innovation Lab. "Then, we wanted to use encouraging messages to help them follow proper protocols."

The Reese lab teamed up with Lenovo to design the 'Health Greeter Kiosks.'

The device uses real-time data from a depth-sensing camera to detect if a person needs to adjust their mask, create more space between them and others or if they’re doing everything correctly.

"In the middle of us building out this system, my mom spent 28 days in the hospital and four days on a ventilator, and it was a very stressful time. But what it did was help me see how important technology like this is to get it out to the public," said King.

Designers of this device said they hoped it would shape safety protocols, slow the spread of coronavirus and, in time, be used for more than just football games.

“We believe that following these steps will help keep people safe and we can use technology to help encourage that,” said King.

Robert Daigle, the artificial intelligence innovation and business leader for Lenovo, said the company hoped the technology could soon pop up on more than just UNC-CH's campus.

"We'd like to see this project expanded into more universities, that they're able to keep technology, artificial technology to keep patrons, students and staff safe on campus and be able to expand this out to other businesses where you have essential employees you want to protect and keep safe," he added.

The kiosks were tested successfully when the Tar Heels played Virginia Tech in early October. They will touch down again this weekend when UNC plays North Carolina State University.


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