The Western Hockey League (WHL) is trialing a smartphone-based, artificial intelligence (AI) powered COVID-19 diagnostic test to complement the WHL’s return-to-play health and safety protocols for the 2020-21 season.
WHL players will be tested once per week using the current “gold standard” for COVID-19 detection, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) exam, with the trial of a smartphone-based AI diagnostic test running concurrently to PCR testing.
The trial officially launched in the third week of March 2021 with all 17 Canadian teams in the WHL have been invited to participate in this trial.
Developed by Vancouver’s Light AI, the diagnostic test is non-invasive and requires no swabs. Users download the Light AI app to their smartphones and follow guided instructions that enable the phone’s native camera function to take an appropriate image of the user’s oral cavity. The acquired image is automatically uploaded to Light AI’s cloud-based server, where a complex AI algorithm analyzes it for signs of COVID-19.
Results of the exam are sent back to the user, along with appropriate instructions in the case of a COVID-19-positive result. The trial has been structured so each image sent to Light AI’s Cloud server will be verified by PCR testing to compare for accuracy of Light AI’s solution.
“The WHL is pleased to partner with Light AI on this research project and we appreciate the cooperation we have from our players and staff in this regard,” commented WHL Commissioner, Ron Robison. “Our first priority continues to be the health and safety of our players, and everyone associated with the WHL, and we are hopeful this research will improve the technology in our fight to protect our WHL family and communities from COVID-19 and other illnesses.”
The development of Light AI’s COVID-19 test began prior to the pandemic in 2016, when Peter Whitehead began leveraging AI to create a rapid diagnostic test for strep throat. The test created, named “Strepic®” is currently able to differentiate streptococcal infections from viral infections with >96% accuracy within four seconds of image capture. Whitehead is an inventor, visionary and CEO of Light AI.
“This is an excellent chance to test and improve our technology in the ongoing fight to protect our communities from COVID-19 and other illnesses,” said Whitehead. “We believe that components of artificial intelligence, including convolutional neural networks, deep learning and predictive analytics, are the technologies most likely to create significant breakthroughs in our ability to identify and manage a wide variety of diseases, including COVID-19. By coupling our AI algorithms with a smartphone, we believe Light AI can offer convenient, reliable, and extremely rapid diagnoses of COVID-19.”
“We believe that a rapid, accurate, non-invasive test will allow us to open up a wide variety of venues and markets, including sporting events, airports, offices, music venues and theatres, and all of the necessities and amenities we’ve been missing since lockdown began,” added Whitehead. “We hope our trial with the WHL validates this and confirms our confidence in the use advanced diagnostic technologies that utilize AI.”