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3D-printed medical valves are helping the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy

(TECH NEWS) 3D printing came to the rescue in Brescia while the COVID-19 began to take affect. 3 companies banded together to recreate life saving medical valves.

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Advancements in 3D printing have blown my mind. If you can draw it, they can print anything, even houses. Who knew 3D printing would become a contributor in the fight against COVID-19. This global pandemic has sent people around the world into hiding, AKA social distancing.

Three Italian 3D printing companies have come together to make valves for a specific ventilator, the Venturi Oxygen Mask. Their quick actions have helped save lives in Italy. If more companies like theirs come together in this effort, more lives will no doubt be saved.

We are behind the curve in flattening the coronavirus curve in the U.S., like Italy was a month ago. We’ve learned what an unsustainable situation this is, because the hospitals and clinics cannot keep up with testing and treatment. The rate of community spread in northern Italy and the number of critical cases quickly surpassed the availability of necessary, life-saving equipment–specifically a ventilator valve.

These valves are vital to running the Venturi Oxygen Masks. Patients who’d lost the ability to breathe for themselves in the late stages of COVID-19 infection need these masks or similar devices to survive. In an unfortunate twist, the supply chain for the valves originated in factories that COVID-19 had shut down for weeks prior to the crisis reaching northern Italy.

By last week, northern Italian city, Brescia, had been overrun by critical care patients by last Friday, March 13. ICUs overflowed with patients in dire need. The shortage of valves likely meant more deaths that could have been prevented. According to reports, one fast-thinking journalist, Nunzia Vallini, editor of the Giornale di Brescia, realized this.

Vallini reached out to Massimo Temporelli, founder of FabLab in Milan, asking if FabLab could replicate the valve through 3D printing. help respond to the shortage of valves. Temporelli in turn reached out to founder Cristian Fracassi of 3D printing company Isinnova, in Brescia itself.

Despite Venturi allegedly refusing to share the valve design, Fracassi set up his 3D printer at the hospital and soon had reverse engineered the essential valve. When they tested it and realized it would work, Fracassi and Isinnova set to work making valves. They also reached out to another Italian 3D printing company, Lonati, who also pitched in to produce more valves.

The three Italian companies have given these valves to the hospitals in the effort to fight the virus and save lives. None of them have the legal right to sell the valves, which are protected under copyright and patent law. However, in an urgent situation such as the one in Brescia, the hospital and the 3D printing companies have the right to create these parts to meet the desperate need.

Now that these Italian 3D printing companies have joined forces in the fight against the nasty COVID-19, one can only hope that more innovation will come from this meeting of minds. Worldwide, the mantra is becoming “Do whatever it takes” to slow down, and eventually stop the rapid, deadly trajectory of the novel coronavirus of 2019.

I thought printing tiny homes for the homeless, like Austin company ICON is doing, would be the pinnacle of 3D printing. I was wrong. I’m eager to see where this new path of 3D printing takes us. What a wonderful, terrible time to be alive.

Hopefully Venturi will step up and make the original design available to other 3D printing companies. COVID-19 won’t wait. I’m grateful to these super smart humans designing medical equipment and 3D printers, to Nunzia Vallini, and to the healthcare professionals who are in the trenches. They give us hope and inspiration.

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

Tech News

Australia wants Facebook and Google to pay media royalties

Australia seeks to require Facebook and Google to pay royalties to media companies for use of news content on their platforms.

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Australia is in the process of requiring tech giants, Facebook and Alphabet, to pay royalties to Australian media companies for using their content. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the move the day after the US Congressional antitrust hearing that put the CEOs of Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon, and Apple back in the regulatory spotlight.

In addition to the pressure from the United States investigation into market control by these companies, global leaders are calling for similar regulations. Though none have been successful, media companies in Germany, France, and Spain have pushed for legislation to force Google to pay licensing fees to use their news content. Some companies have been pushing for this for years and yet, the tech giants keep dragging out their changes, even admitting their actions are wrong.

In 2019, the Australian government instructed Facebook and Google to negotiate voluntary deals with Australian media to use their content. The Australian government says the companies failed to follow through on the directive, and therefore will be forced to intervene. They have 45 days to reach an agreement in arbitration, after which the Australian Communications and Media Authority will create legally binding terms for the companies on behalf of the Australian government.

Google claims the web traffic that it drives to media websites should be compensation enough for the content. A Google representative in Australia asserts that the government regulations would constitute interference into market competition – which would be the point, Google!

According to a 2019 study, an estimated 3,000 journalism jobs have been lost in the last decade. The previous generation of media companies has paid substantial advertising fees to Google and Facebook while receiving nothing in return for the use of its news content. Frydenberg asserts the regulatory measures are necessary to protect consumers and ensure a “sustainable media landscape” in the country.

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Tech News

Onboarding for customers and employees made easy

(TECH NEWS) Cohere enables live, virtual onboarding at bargain prices to help you better support and guide your users.

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Web development and site design may be straightforward, but that doesn’t mean your customers won’t get turned around when reviewing your products. Onboarding visitors is the simplest solution, but is it the easiest?

According to Cohere–a live, remote onboarding tool–the answer is a resounding yes.

Cohere claims to be able to integrate with your website using “just 2 lines of code”; after completing this integration, you can communicate with, guide, and show your product to any site visitor upon request. You’ll also be able to see what customers are doing in real time rather than relying on metrics, making it easy to catch and convert customers who are on the fence, due to uncertainty or confusion.

There isn’t a screen-share option in Cohere’s package, but what they do include is a “multiplayer” option in which your cursor will appear on a customer’s screen, thus enabling you to guide them to the correct options; you can also scroll and type for your customer, all the while talking them through the process as needed. It’s the kind of onboarding that, in a normal world, would have to take place face-to-face–completely tailored for virtual so you don’t have to.

You can even use Cohere to stage an actual demo for customers, which accomplishes two things: the ability to pare down your own demo page in favor of live options, and minimizing confusion (and, by extension, faster sales) on the behalf of the customer. It’s a win-win situation that streamlines your website efficiency while potentially increasing your sales.

Naturally, the applications for Cohere are endless. Using this tool for eCommerce or tech support is an obvious choice, but as virtual job interviews and onboarding become more and more prevalent, one could anticipate Cohere becoming the industry example for remote inservice and walkthroughs.

Hands-on help beats written instructions any day, so if companies are able to allocate the HR resources to moderate common Cohere usage, it could be a huge win for those businesses.

For those two lines of code (and a bit more), you’ll pay anywhere from $39 to $129 for the listed packages. Custom pricing is available for larger businesses, so you may have some wiggle room if you’re willing to take a shot at implementing Cohere business-wide.

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Tech News

Smart clothing could be used to track COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) In order to track and limit the spread of COVID-19 smart clothing may be the solution we need to flatten the curve–but at what cost?

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COVID tracking clothing

When most people hear the phrase “smart clothing”, they probably envision wearables like AR glasses or fitness trackers, but certainly not specially designed fabrics to indicate different variables about the people wearing them–including, potentially, whether or not someone has contracted COVID-19.

According to Politico, that’s exactly what clinical researchers are attempting to create.

The process started with Apple and Fitbit using their respective wearables to attempt to detect COVID-19 symptoms in wearers. This wouldn’t be the first time a tech company got involved with public health in this context; earlier this year, for example, Apple announced a new Watch feature that would call 911 if it detected an abnormal fall. The NBA also attempted to detect outbreaks in players by providing them with Oura Rings–another smart wearable.

While these attempts have yet to achieve widespread success, optimism toward smart clothing–especially things like undershirts–and its ability to report adequately someone’s symptoms, remains high.

The smart clothing industry has existed in the context of monitoring health for quite some time. The aforementioned tech giants have made no secret of integrating health- and wellness-centric features into their devices, and companies like Nanowear have even gone so far as to create undergarments that track things like the wearer’s heart rate.

It’s only fitting that these companies would transition to COVID assessment, containment, and prevention in the shadow of the pandemic, though they aren’t the only ones doing so. Indeed, innovators from all corners of the United States are set to participate in a “rapid testing solutions” competition–the end goal being a cheap, fast, easy-to-use wearable option to help flatten the curve. The “cheap” aspect is perhaps the most difficult; as Politico says, the majority of people have a general understanding of how to use wearable technology.

Perhaps more importantly, the potential for HIPPA violations via data access is high–and, during a period of time in which people are more suspicious of technology companies than ever, vis-a-vis data sharing, privacy could be a significant barrier to the creation, distribution, and use of otherwise crucial smart clothing.

There is no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated, among other things, technological advancement in ways unseen by many of us alive today. Only time will tell if smart clothing–life-saving potential and all–becomes part of that trend.

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