Washing your hands in a perfunctory fashion won't pass go with a new artificial intelligence system, particularly at the time of a pandemic. 

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. said it has developed a technology to ensure that the proper hand-washing procedure recommended by the health ministry to help prevent novel coronavirus infections and other public hygiene problems is followed.

The company announced on May 26 that the determination is done by a new AI system on the basis of camera imagery.

The recommended procedure comprises the six steps of rubbing the palms; rubbing the backs of the hands; scrubbing the fingertips and the underside of the nails; rubbing between the fingers; twisting and washing the thumbs; and wringing and scrubbing the wrists.

For each of those steps, the AI system recognizes the number of times the hands have been rubbed, and the presence or absence of lather, to determine if the proper washing procedure is being followed.

For example, the letters “OK” appear on the screen if the hands have been rubbed 10 times or more in the right manner, but the letters “NG,” for “no good,” are displayed in red if they have not been washed properly or rubbed a sufficient number of times.

Physical overlapping of hands and the presence of lather on them presented a challenge for the use of AI in precisely detecting fine movements of the hands and fingers while they are being washed. But the developers raised the accuracy of detection to 90 percent or more by making the AI system learn about 2,000 or so patterns with variations in hand shapes, soap types and other conditions, officials said.

The government has lifted a state of emergency over the novel coronavirus all across Japan. Food plants and restaurants are therefore expected to gradually resume operations.

“Hand-washing will become even more essential in the days and months to come,” a Fujitsu official said. “There will be demand for our technology in a variety of situations.”