This Could Be Big

A Camera That Measures Your Pulse From Afar

In life we're surrounded by subtle changes in movement and temperature that are undetectable to the naked eye, like the flashing pulse in our face or the gentle sway of a large building. Despite our inability to see these movements, they do occur, and a team from MIT has come up with a way to reveal these unseen secrets.

It's a method of spatial decomposition called "Eulerian Video Magnification". It works by isolating subtle changes in video, allowing you to magnify individual variations and leave the rest the same.

A similar type of video processing is utilized by an app called Cardiio, that detects your heart beat using the front-facing camera in your iPhone. But when the more sophisticated MIT framework is made available later this year, the implications will be broad and far-reaching. Among other things, it can be used to detect functional issues with buildings and bridges, monitor babies heart rates from afar and measure vital signs without touching the patient.

It takes a science fiction turn when you think about security and surveillance possibilities, like monitoring heart rates in public places to detect anxious, potentially criminal, behavior. A company called Genia Photonics has already created a laser-based molecular airport security scanner that, from over 150 feet away, can detect not only explosive materials but also your adrenaline level, or even what you ate for breakfast.

View Comments