WATCH | Soccer injury behind SA twins' concept for ‘Digital X-ray Glasses'

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  • Twin sisters Matlhogonolo and Masego Mphahlele came up with an idea for "Digital X-ray Glasses" back in 2019.
  • They were motivated to try and create a more portable version of an "X-ray" device after their soccer teammate sustained an injury.
  • They represented South Africa at the Red Bull Basement Global Final in Turkey in March 2022.

In 2019, during their matric year, twin sisters Matlhogonolo and Masego Mphahlele had an ah-ha moment. 

Their teammate was injured during a soccer game and urgently needed medical attention. At the top of the procedure list was an emergency "X-ray" to help doctors determine the depth of the sporting injury.

Despite the long wait at the local hospital, the twins stood by their friend. As the adage says: "Necessity is the mother of invention." 

This rang true for the twins who, following the experience, wanted to find a quicker solution to traditional X-rays. They set out on a journey to potentially help many other patients waiting in hospitals and overcrowded clinics.

"While we were there, we had an idea. We wanted to create a device on the spot," Matlhogonolo told News24.

The two sisters spent the following four years, developing their idea. With the help of two fellow University of Johannesburg students, they created a prototype called "Digital X-ray Glasses" – bringing a version of their idea to life.  

It uses an infrared camera and a mini-computer chip to send thermal images to a mobile device and was created using 3D printing.

"The camera can only take infrared images to a mobile device. We want to do more research to better our idea," they explained.

"In the future, we want the product to be able to work without using radiation… and to be able to distribute it to different local hospitals and clinics," Matlhogonolo added.

The twins received acclaim for their concept from Red Bull in March 2022.  

They shared their idea at the Red Bull Basement Global Final in Turkey. The competition empowers student innovators to kickstart their ideas using technology to drive positive change.

After presenting to a panel of judges, the duo placed third out of dozens of representatives from 43 countries.

The siblings are hopeful that this is only the beginning of more innovations in the future.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated since publication to better reflect that the device is a prototype and, in its current form, uses infrared radiation or thermal imaging rather than x-rays. 

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