How a webcam can record your vital signs

Imagine if you could get a daily read of your vital signs. This would give you a chance to figure out our "normal" pattern and see problems in real-time.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

The webcam on my computer always looked kind of creepy to me.

But MIT researchers are finding a way of using it to monitor your health. Your webcam has the potential to be your digital doctor - it might one day check your pulse, breathing, and blood pressure.

The researchers can’t do all that stuff yet, but they can take pulse measurements from webcam images. 

The scientists said if you put this camera in a two-way mirror in the bathroom, it would make it easier to take vital signs every day. And it can be used at times where you don’t want to be too invasive when monitoring someone.

The key is all in a person’s face. Our blood vessels can reveal a lot about us. Of course the main challenge was being able to take the pulse of the person even if they moved and if the light changed a little.

The scientists used a similar method that can decipher a single voice out of a roomful of chatter. This way, the researchers could isolate the pulse readings. Since the program is focused on faces, you can put a couple of people in front of the mirror and still measure their individual pulses.

So now, the researchers are looking to measure the other vital signs like blood pressure and blood-oxygen. 

The trend of using regular gadgets to get useful data about health isn't new.

UCLA engineers created a cell phone microscope that is supposed to help in telemedicine.

And UnitedHealth Group launched a program to give patients access to doctors and hospitals without letting distance get in the way. The patients would need an Apple computer, a good camera, a TV, a doctor, and a patient.

To check out doctor webcam, watch the video below:

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Photo: Melanie Gonick

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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