UPM apologises for confusion caused by app that supposedly detects Covid-19 through selfies


Idrus said the app, which uses AI to analyse digital biomarkers, still needs to be verified using clinical data. — Screenshot from UPM Facebook

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) has apologised for sharing an infographic on 10 innovations and initiatives by its researchers to fight Covid-19, which included an app that was claimed to detect the coronavirus by analysing selfies.

In a Facebook post, UPM vice-chancellor for research and innovation, Prof Datuk Dr Zulkifli Idrus explained that the Inovasi Self-diagnose app is still in development and testing stages, and it was not ready to be announced to the public.

The app is not meant to replace RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction), the primary test for detecting the virus, and Rapid Diagnostic Test which detects antibodies, he said, adding that a mistake in the app name has also been a source of confusion.

The purpose of the app is for early detection, not for diagnosis, he added.

He said the app, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse digital biomarkers, still needs to be verified using clinical data.

The infographic, which was uploaded to its official Facebook page by Putra Science Park UPM on April 7, has since been deleted. Users who saw the post mostly reacted to it with skepticism.

According to a guideline from the Health Ministry, Covid-19 testing requires collecting samples from the nose and throat (nasopharyngeal swab).

The university claimed it has already shared some of the other innovations in the list with Pusat Kesihatan Universiti (PKU), Hospital Pengajar UPM (HPUPM) and other organisations to help fulfill the important needs of frontliners.

Its list includes a 3D face shield, a remote controlled service robot for spraying disinfectant, and a tunnel with automatic hand sanitiser and temperature sensor.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad also shared the UPM Covid-19 post on her Facebook page, praising the university for its efforts.

Recently, she came under fire for encouraging students to create TikTok videos to win prizes in a contest, as part of the movement control order (MCO) initiative.

The TikTok contest posts on Noraini's social media pages have since been removed.

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Universiti Putra Malaysia

   

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