Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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  1. When and how will the app give COVID-19 prediction results?
    1. Our app is currently for data collection only. We cannot release a COVID-19 prediction app without public health department approvals in each country and clinical studies to validate the AI technology in local conditions. This process can take some weeks or months depending on the speed of the government partner. Virufy welcomes partnerships from health officials and hospitals to bring the technology for free use to the people and to optimize usage of costly PCR tests only when necessary.
  2. Where can I download the app? Will it be available for iOS and Android?
    1. The app will be available for download at https://virufy.org/app, as we need government or medical approval in some countries to put our app into the official app stores. The app can be connected to and from a smartphone. Thus, it is compatible with any operating system including iOS or Android.
  3. Will the application be available for free and worldwide?
    1. As a nonprofit organization our intention is to make the app free for everyone, especially in low-income countries. However, we may need to charge a nominal fee to support our operations in case we are not able to raise enough funds.
  4. Do you plan to extend this app in a startup?
    1. Virufy is a nonprofit. We may partner with companies if needed to accelerate deployment of the app for the benefit of people.
  5. When will the app be available for my country?
    1. Virufy strives to comply with data privacy laws which vary by country. We are very happy to extend to your country if we are able to connect with a pro bono data privacy lawyer to review our privacy policy and consent form.
  6. What is the vision for the Virufy app?
    1. Virufy was initially intended as a supplement to tests. We also envision a future where people can easily know their health condition so they do not spread any sicknesses.
  7. Who can access the test results? How does the organization try to regulate the range of accessibility? Where are the test results stored?
    1. Our intention for the prediction app is to have only the user to see their test results since there is a lot of fear around positive results. The data from the test results and data collection will be stored in secure servers.
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  1. How was this initiative created?
    1. When the pandemic hit, Virufy’s founder, Amil, knew smartphones were omnipresent and that COVID impacted the nose, throat, and lungs. He hypothesized that breathing and cough sounds could be analyzed with machine learning to detect COVID patterns. Wanting to make a positive impact, he orchestrated a clinical study with 362 patients in an esteemed university hospital. The original team of Virufy, beginning with Stanford graduate AI students, expanded to volunteers from universities around the world.
      As a One Young World Japan ambassador who has travelled to over a dozen countries, Amil understands the global perspective and how a smartphone-based solution can be used by people all over the world.
  2. How is Virufy different from other groups working on similar projects?
    1. We are a non-profit organization with a diverse group of volunteers, so we can work in developing countries without the need for profit. We specialize in data collection, the key part of the diagnosement process, which can then lead to partnerships and collaboration with other groups.
  3. What phase of the investigation are you at? Is there a deadline to participate?
    1. We have put considerable effort to form partnerships, build our mobile app, register our California nonprofit entity, and build our policies for compliance with data privacy laws across 7 countries.

      Our data collection app is at the breakthrough stage, as have addressed the majority of healthcare data privacy and technical concerns to allow for launch. We have already gotten data privacy, information security, and UI/UX in place for our data collection mobile app, along with a scalable backend AWS infrastructure.

      We anticipate large volumes of data collection in 2021 and intend to drive collaborative AI development efforts to build the solution. There is no deadline, and we always welcome more cough data as it improves the AI algorithm.

  4. What is unique about Virufy from other projects?
    1. We are youth run, with a diverse and global team from across 15 countries and 25 universities. We are guided by expert advisors from universities, non-profits, and businesses around the world. Our multidisciplinary team has expertise in data privacy, machine learning, medicine, information security, and mobile app development. Our One Young World network allows us to connect with trusted partners in every country.

      We welcome all, and being a nonprofit allows for volunteers to join. As a volunteer run non-profit, we are independent and have less red tape. We also have pro bono access to legal and data privacy advice for proper deployment.

  5. How much investment was made to make the Virufy project possible?
    1. More than 200 volunteers have put thousands of hours into making the project possible. Companies including Slack and JotForm have supported us with free software and cloud credits as COVID responders. Other expenses such as email services and cloud compute have been paid out of the founder Amil’s savings but are only a few thousand dollars.

      We believe that if we are successful, our cloud compute costs will increase, but we will be able to attract ample grant funding and private donations, and thus are thinking to rely solely on that.

  6. Is Virufy a nonprofit?
    1. Virufy is a registered California nonprofit public benefit corporation. We are in the process of gaining an official 501(c)(3) status, however, the IRS is backlogged due to the pandemic.

  7. What are the participating universities?
    1. Virufy is not officially affiliated with any university. However, we are a Stanford University COVID-19 Response Innovation Lab project, have participated in Stanford’s Hacking for Recovery startup accelerator, and have also been featured across various One Young World platforms. Our team includes students and alumni from more than 25 universities including UC Berkeley, Oxford, Harvard, and Princeton.

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  1. How does the artificial intelligence (AI) work?
    1. COVID-19 uniquely affects the lungs and throats, which subsequently affects the sound of the voice and coughing, creating differentiating features from other coughs. We use cutting-edge techniques, such as fourier transform, to extract those features for analysis by machine learning algorithms and AI. After extraction of the features, this algorithm can classify whether those features belong to COVID and learn the specific patterns of people with COVID.
  2. How can the app help prevent coronavirus infections?
    1. By empowering everyone to know their risk status for COVID and other diseases, the potential for the spread of unknown viruses will decrease considerably. Early detection will allow for people to self-isolate and take measures to heal from the virus faster.

      Meanwhile, nurses can use the app to check if a patient has COVID, thus reducing the need to use expensive PCR test kits. People can also check themselves anytime they feel they have a COVID symptoms to confirm whether they need to go to the doctor for a check up or test for COVID.

  3. How do you measure our percentage of effectiveness, and is this measured in clinical studies?
    1. Please see https://virufy.org/paper and https://virufy.org/research.html for details about our research.

  4. Are microphones reliable enough to be used for self-diagnoses?
    1. Yes, the results from 3500 people from 20 countries with many different smartphones show that microphones are indeed able to capture COVID-19 signatures.

  5. Will the performance of the AI model in different environments remain unaffected?
    1. Ideally, we would want users to follow the instructions on the app on how to record their cough. However, we can use a technique called data augmentation to make the algorithm work in all types of situations if needed.

  6. What was the main difficulty in collecting and processing data? Was there any region where artificial intelligence was less accurate, for example?
    1. The process is slow and cumbersome when collecting from hospitals, requiring clinical study forms and IRB approvals. With supervision from Stanford medical advisors, we went through this process for two hospitals in South Asia and are currently in discussions with hospitals in South America and Africa. For collecting directly from users, we spent significant efforts with pro bono expert lawyers to ensure compliance with data privacy laws, including LGPD.

      As described in our research paper, some of the difficulties we found in processing data included excessive background noises and incorrect cough recordings submitted by users, which required the AI developers to manually clean the audio samples before training AI models.

  7. Has the technology been validated yet?
    1. Yes, various groups across the world have validated that coughs contain detectable patterns signifying the presence of COVID-19. We believe that rollout of the technology is just a matter of time and collaboration. As outlined in our research paper, we have independently shown that the COVID cough signature generalizes across continents and between clinical and crowdsourced datasets.

      We have already done IRB-approved clinical studies in hospitals in two countries and are currently seeking approvals in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia for clinical studies through private hospital executive and top-level governmental connections.

  8. Can asymptomatic cases still be detected?
    1. Yes, we have asymptomatic detection that is especially important for people in their 20s and 30s who are more likely to be asymptomatic.

  9. Will the application use artificial intelligence developed by third parties or created just for this purpose?
    1. Virufy has its own AI research team and is open to collaboration and integration of AI algorithms from other research groups.

  10. What are your plans for Virufy after the COVID-19 vaccine?
    1. We anticipate that low-income countries will not have the financial resources and medical infrastructure to vaccinate their population and that rapid, equitable COVID-19 testing will still be important to control the pandemic, especially in those countries.

  11. What are your plans for Virufy after COVID-19 is under control?
    1. Virufy aims to bring an end to the spread of various communicable diseases through widespread, smartphone-based testing which can be used whenever a community feels at risk of virus spread. We anticipate that the same artificial intelligence technology can be adapted to detect other coronaviruses, including the common cold and influenza. This can reduce the unnecessary burden on healthcare systems and chemical-based diagnosis for diseases which can be detected by AI.

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  1. Do I need to make any financial contribution to donate my cough?
    1. No.
  2. How do I record my cough and submit it to Virufy?
    1. Virufy is currently only collecting coughs from certain countries, which can be found in our app: https://virufy.org/app

  3. Do I need to have coughing symptoms to donate my cough?
    1. No, the app is also compatible with a forced cough.

  4. How many donors have you had in total?
    1. We have more than 5,000 cough recordings from over 10 countries, mostly in South America and South Asia. Some of these are clinical, and others are contributed directly by individuals in our app.

  5. What are the operational expenses for the organization?
    1. We are currently completely volunteer run. Our main budget requirements are for marketing to complete data collection. We would also need money for computation later on after scaling to a large user base.

  6. Does the team get funding? If so, where and how much? What is it used on?
    1. We do not have funding yet, as we are just starting to apply for grants after recently obtaining 501(c)(3) status.

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  1. How will Virufy securely store my data?
    1. We use JotForm and Amazon Web Services (AWS) for research study data collection. JotForm and AWS store the data in a secure application with restricted access and controls. Your data will be stored with JotForm or AWS until it is downloaded by us. We will store the data in a database with restricted access. If you would like more information about how Jotform and AWS store your data, please visit their respective privacy policies at https://www.jotform.com/privacy/ and https://aws.amazon.com/en/privacy/. If you would like to learn more please refer to the Virufy privacy policy.
  2. Is my privacy ever at risk of being exposed when I donate my cough to Virufy?
    1. Our strong legal and information security teams have developed a DPIA to address potential risks and threats for your privacy. We will only store your personal data in an anonymized form (whereas you cannot be identified in any way) and in a secure database with restricted access. If you would like to learn more please refer to the Virufy privacy policy.

  3. Does Virufy have a privacy policy and cookie policy?
    1. Virufy takes your privacy seriously and our legal team has prepared a detailed privacy policy and cookie policy to protect the personal information you share with us through use of our website, participation in our cough donation study, contacting us, and volunteer applications.

  4. Will my data be shared with third parties?
    1. If you opt-in to share your contact information (e.g., email and phone number) with us, we will not distribute any of this identifiable information to any third party, even for research purposes, without your explicit consent. However, we may share your anonymized information, such as your cough sounds, with third parties in order to accelerate global research efforts to stop the COVID-19 pandemic and other future spreads of disease. More details can be found in our privacy policy and the data collection study consent form.

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  1. How can I support Virufy more?
    1. You can join our team today and look at the join page for more information. You can also support us at GoFundMe. You can also contact us for partnership.
  2. How does distribution work, and how will Virufy become more widespread?
    1. The app will be offered for free and will likely market itself and spread quickly

  3. In how many countries has data collection for Virufy already taken place? In addition to Latin America, does the organization have another focus at this time?
    1. We have collected data from the countries listed on our app. Latin America is our main focus region right now.
  4. How has the response of the people been?
    1. All of our customer surveys and media responses have suggested that people greatly appreciate the existence of the app and support our cause.

  5. Will you collaborate with governments for data collection? If so, what will it be like?
    1. We are very open to partnerships with governments to increase cough data collection through marketing or clinical means. Additionally, we would like to accelerate approval for the deployment of the AI detection app which could involve introductions and partnerships to local medical AI companies, universities, and research groups.

  6. Does your product need regulatory approval (e.g., FDA)? If so, what is the approval process? What is your plan to get approved, and how much time and money will it take?
    1. Yes, we are compliant with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) for California, Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados (LGPD) for Brazil, and local data privacy laws in five countries in Latin America. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not apply to us.

      As we are not yet providing predictions to individuals in the US, FDA approval is not needed.

      However, we may explore giving predictions on a regional basis, e.g. predicted number of COVID active cases in San Jose based on unlabeled collected coughs, as this surveillance testing area may not fall under FDA.

  7. What if I have more questions?
    1. More details can be found in our full privacy policy, cookie policy and consent form which is embedded in the data collection app.

      For questions related to the data collection study, please email us at study@virufy.org. For data related queries, we can be contacted at open-data@virufy.org. For all other inquiries, you may reach us at info@virufy.org.

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Want to collaborate with us?

We have achieved state-of-the-art accuracies in our COVID detection smartphone app and are ready to share it freely with hospital networks and public health departments open to collaboration on refinement and tuning of our algorithm to local conditions. Additionally, our organization relies on pro bono partner companies for support in key areas such as development and data privacy. Please contact us if your company can support our cause in some way.