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This coming Friday, January 8, vaccinations against the coronavirus will be started in the Netherlands. People who have a fear of needles can be deterred by this fear to go and get the vaccination. Tilburg University has developed a support app to help people keep their anxiety under control.

Fear of needles

People with a phobia of needles can suffer from panic attacks and fits of crying, which can make injections very difficult. Some people also suffer from palpitations and fainting. These are reactions of the autonomic nervous system, which makes them difficult to control.

Infrared cameras

Elisabeth Huis in ‘t Veld, assistant professor of artificial intelligence, founded the start-up AINAR specifically to develop this app. She used infrared cameras at the Sanquin blood bank to examine the changes in blood donors’ faces when they became unwell. These images were incorporated into an algorithm for the app.

The game app uses the selfie camera to analyze facial expressions. These images are translated into colors in a puzzle. When you show signs of anxiety, stress, or fainting, this turns red, when you feel calm, then it turns blue. The user does this puzzle to try to get a grip on their feelings before they receive an injection.

The game

AINAR is already available and you can find the download instructions on the AINAR. website. The app will be further developed with the help of feedback from users. Huis in ‘t Veld hopes that the app will be available for everyone before the summer.


Huis in ‘t Veld received a Veni grant (Dutch Research Council, NWO) in 2018 for its FAINT (FAcial INfrared Thermal) research. The goal of this research was to develop an Artificial Intelligence algorithm that can read facial cues and anticipate that someone is about to faint. She was awarded a Take-Off grant (NWO) in 2019 to develop a prototype of the game.

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