Last year, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab unveiled a novel pulse-measuring technique that used a low-resolution Webcam. It worked by imaging the human face to detect the slightest changes in brightness resulting from blood flow.
Electronics maker Philips is now is bringing a strikingly similar technology to market with its Vital Signs Camera App, though with the rather important disclaimer that said app should not be considered a medical tool.
The app, released last week for 99 cents, uses the iPad's built-in camera to detect those tiny changes in color--which Philips calls "micro-blushes"--that measure blood flow to indicate one's pulse. The camera also tracks chest movement to determine one's respiratory rate.
To use the app, one simply needs to position one's face within the given brackets on the screen and hold still for a few seconds while the measurements are taken. The results can then be shared by Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail.
One early adopter writes a telling review: "Don't know if the readings are correct, but still amazing to use."
It is indeed hard to say exactly how accurate this technology is, and the disclaimer clarifies that measurements and statistics are provided for "entertainment use only," but with Philips making its algorithms available for licensing, this will surely be the first of many vital-sign apps to come.
For now, as we sprawl out on couches and under tables after the inevitably too-large Thanksgiving meal, measuring our vital signs could certainly become one form of holiday entertainment.