Tech Startups

15-year-old Bristol teenager is behind a simple but genius COVID invention

Max Melia
Photo: District May PR

Max Melia is a 15-year-old teenager living with his parents in Fishponds, in the north east area of Bristol.

When his parents contracted the coronavirus in March, Max started working on VybPro, a device with the potential to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus and save lives.

VybPro will be a wearable wristband device with sensors and algorithms which make the device vibrate when the user is about to subconsciously touch their face.

VybPro wrist wearables
Photo: Max Melia / VybPro

The aim of the device is to make the user aware of their action, which helps follow WHO guidance:

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

World Health Organisation

Max and his mum, Natalie, began designing the concept of VybPro two years ago with the aim for the device to help prevent the spread of flu and cold, which are transmitted in similar ways to the coronavirus.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Max and Natalie brought the idea back to life and devoted their time in lockdown to develop a prototype with the help of a product design team and start a VybPro Kickstarter campaign, where they are hoping to secure £60,000 of funding.

With a pending patent, VybPro is worn on both wrists and recognises the gestures performed with the user’s wrists thanks to sensors and intelligent algorithms on the device.

Watching this pandemic unfold on the news, it was clear the devastating effect it was having on people lives’ across the world – however it wasn’t until I saw the severity of the virus first-hand, when my parents both contracted Covid-19, did I truly appreciate just what we were dealing with.

We came up with the concept a few years ago when my family were repeatedly catching cold and flu viruses from travelling in and out of London and I could see how easy it was to pick up germs – especially from using public transport. It was only when the World Health Organisation began urging people to avoid touching their eyes, nose and face to stop the spread of the virus from contaminated surfaces, did I realise that it could make a real difference in slowing the transmission of coronavirus.

With the assistance and technical expertise of the product design team I’ve now developed and tested a working prototype that uses intelligent algorithms, which I think has the potential to become part of people’s ‘new normal’.

The main priority of this project is not to make money but to get it onto the wrists of those it can help keep safe. Any profits made from early sales via the crowdfunding site will be reinvested into providing free devices to organisations that help people such as NHS staff and nursing homes.

I believe that this device can make a real difference in the fight against coronavirus and I’m determined to do all that I can to bring it to market. I really hope that the general public can see the potential and are inspired to get behind the campaign to fund the next stage of the development.

Max Melia

The teenager says that manufacture of each device will cost approximately £25, while a set of two will cost approximately £50 to make.

With VAT, transaction fees and Kickstarter fees, it’s estimated that the cost of selling the devices will be around £77 for a set, or £38.50 for one.

As per the Kickstarter campaign, here is the estimated project budget:

VybPro project budget
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