Thursday, April 28, 2011

Diagnosing malaria? There's an app for that.

If you're familiar with Africa at all, you already know that malaria is a tragic and monumental problem here. Every year, almost 800,000 people due from malaria worldwide, with just about 90% of those deaths coming from Sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria is a curable, preventable disease, but the lack of trained medical professionals, diagnostic tools, and prescription drugs in Africa make it a seemingly insurmountable issue. To try to take the malaria problem, a team of computer scientists from across the US built an app that allows for simple malaria diagnosis with a (slightly tricked out) smart phone.

The team, named LifeLens, competed in Microsoft's annual Imagine Cup, building a potentially world-changing application on top of Microsoft technology. The team's video explains it all.

The project provides an awesome proof of concept, showing us just how far everyday technology has come and what widespread applications it can be used for. But more that a proof of concept, this, in its current stage, is probably not. The team made a big stride in allowing the app to function without an Internet connection, but still the cost of the device alone will remain a colossal hurdle for widespread adoption. Nonetheless, it's an incredible first step. I'd love to see someone more commercialization-minded pick up the technology and run with it to make something that could actually make a big splash in the market.

It's truly a wonder how far we've come, and it's so refreshing to see people apply the technology so many of us take for granted to tackle real issues around the world.

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