We are told over and over again: “avoid touching your face”. We have known since the beginning of the pandemic that the so-called T-zone – formed by the eyes, nose and mouth – can become the perfect entry point for COVID-19 into our body, so why is it so hard for us to avoid it?

A person makes this gesture unconsciously and spontaneously between 10 and 35 times per hour. Robert West, a researcher at University College London (UCL) and lead author of the study “Applying principles of behaviour change to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission”, published in Behavioural Insights Team, argues that it is a cognitive bias which causes us to approach the solution to problems according to their proportionality. In other words, just as we would not kill flies with cannons, it is difficult for human beings to process that the solution to the biggest health crisis in a century is in our hands and to some extent involves stopping touching our noses. The study, also signed by Susan Michie, a researcher also at UCL, and Richard Amlôt, head of Behavioral Science at Public Health England, explains that in order to make changes in unconscious protective habits and behaviors, it is necessary for people to “understand what needs to be done, under what precise circumstances it needs to be done, how to do it and why it is important.”

“We cannot think it will be enough just to tell people about this; we need to go much further in training and supporting people to do these things effectively.” 

Robert West, UCL researcher


Changing unconscious habits is a challenge. It relies on bringing awareness to those actions that we perform without worrying about their consequences. But how can we  achieve it, if it is something we do without realizing it? Easy, by generating a direct and automatic response every time we perform that action. Of course, this is not something new, it is about the reward and punishment system that takes place in the brain of every human being and that health professionals have been investigating for decades. Fortunately for us, once again, portable technology is on our side.

As a result of this pandemic, technology companies and entrepreneurs from all over the world have got down to work to find the perfect wearable to help us avoid making this small but significant gesture: touching our face. However, these models may be too expensive, cumbersome or inaccessible. We, and NASA itself, suggest you build it yourself.



NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has launched a small open source wearable device that, thanks to its simplicity, can be built by anyone who wants to. The wearable called PULSE has a motion detection system that will alert us through vibration when it detects that we are about to touch our face.

Building this device is very cheap and relatively simple, thanks to the instructions shared on GitHub, where they also add purchase links. To do this you need: an infrared sensor, a PNP transistor, a resistor, the on/off switch, a vibration motor, cables and protectors, a 3-volt battery and its support, and paint. For the case is as simple as printing it on a 3D printer. Likewise, the complete piece has a total size of five centimetres. For optimal performance, the device should be between 15 and 30 centimetres below the chin. The closer you bring your hand to the face area, the greater the vibratory response.