Harvard Student Creates Webcam-Based Health Monitoring System

I must say right away that such a system is not able to determine what youare sick with now, or what happened to your stomach, which does not like the contents of the last meal. However, this system, created on the basis of a webcam, is quite capable of determining the pulse, pressure and some other indicators. All this can be determined by using various types of sensors and medical equipment – but the system created by the student is contactless. She, for example, will be able to determine these indicators when you just look in the mirror. And it all costs very little – no more than a mid-range webcam (such as the one built into laptops).

A Harvard student named Ming-Zher Poh has already demonstrated the first working version of his device, based on a completely ordinary webcam. This system is able to very accurately determine the heart rate, that is, the pulse. Now the author of the development adds functions for measuring respiration indicators and the level of oxygen in the blood. Ming-Zher Poh hopes to be able to detect pressure in the same non-contact way. The initial results of his work have already been published in the publication Optics Express.

Ming sees the use of his development useful in cases where contact systems for determining certain health parameters either cannot be used at all, or their use is not comfortable for the patient (for example, victims of an accident or newborns). In addition, such a system can be used to determine the parameters of patients’ health via the Internet. Such systems already exist and work – the most famous is Google Health.

After the development is completed, such systems can be placed in bathroom mirrors – you look in the mirror, and the mirror “looks” at you, showing the results of its “inspection”. The most difficult, according to Ming, was overcoming any difficulties in the form of changes in lighting or the moments when a person moves. The system detects the pulse by measuring the brightness of the skin color, where the blood pressure in the blood vessels of the facial skin plays an important role. It detects all this free software by reading and analyzing information from the image received by the camera. The colors of the picture are divided into red, green and blue, the brightness of each of them is analyzed separately, comparing with the database. Unfortunately, I could not find information on how the system handles racial differences in skin color, but the student was probably able to overcome that obstacle as well. Experts who have studied the system claim that it is fully functional, and can determine the pulse as accurately as many medical devices that can be purchased now at the pharmacy. Well, it remains to wait until the student can “finish” his system by adding the functions mentioned above. Then we can say that this is a truly invaluable development. 

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