APR 06, 2015 9:07 AM PDT

How Do You Feel? Video of Your Face May Tell All

WRITTEN BY: Judy O'Rourke
Rice University researchers are developing a highly accurate, touch-free system that uses a video camera to monitor patients' vital signs just by looking at their faces. The technique isn't new, but researchers in Rice's Scalable Health Initiative are making it work under conditions that have so far stumped earlier systems.

Their version, DistancePPG, can measure a patient's pulse and breathing just by analyzing the changes in one's skin color over time. Where other camera-based systems have been challenged by low-light conditions, dark skin tones, and movement, DistancePPG relies on algorithms that correct for those variables.
Physicians can monitor their patients' vital signs through video by analyzing subtle changes in skin color. New software by Rice University engineers improves the technique by keying on regions of the face to help compensate for different skin tones, changes in lighting, and movement.
Graduate student Mayank Kumar, the project's lead graduate researcher, and his colleagues were aware of an emerging technique that used a video camera to detect nearly imperceptible changes in a person's skin color due to changes in blood volume underneath the skin. Pulse and breathing rates can be determined from these minute changes.

That worked just fine for monitoring Caucasians in bright rooms, he says. But there were three challenges. One was the technique's difficulty in detecting color change in darker skin tones. And the light was not always bright enough. The last, and perhaps hardest problem, was that patients sometimes move. The Rice team solved these challenges by adding a method to average skin-color change signals from different areas of the face and an algorithm to track a subject's nose, eyes, mouth, and whole face.

"Our key finding was that the strength of the skin-color change signal is different in different regions of the face, so we developed a weighted-averaging algorithm," Kumar says. "It improved the accuracy of derived vital signs, rapidly expanding the scope, viability, reach and utility of camera-based vital-sign monitoring."

By incorporating tracking to compensate for movement-even a smile-DistancePPG perceived a pulse rate to within one beat per minute, even for diverse skin tones under varied lighting conditions.

Kumar says he expects the software to find its way to mobile phones, tablets, and computers so people can reliably measure their own vital signs whenever and wherever they choose.

[Source: Rice University]
About the Author
  • Judy O'Rourke worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming chief editor of Clinical Lab Products magazine. As a freelance writer today, she is interested in finding the story behind the latest developments in medicine and science, and in learning what lies ahead.
You May Also Like
JUL 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
New Technology Can Detect Fast Radio Bursts
JUL 06, 2020
New Technology Can Detect Fast Radio Bursts
Fast radio bursts are intense pulses of energy that come from light years away, popping fir a few milliseconds before di ...
OCT 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Robots Are Moving Developmental Biology Forward
OCT 14, 2020
Robots Are Moving Developmental Biology Forward
Researchers have created a robot that can analyze the effects of mutations that occur in portions of the genome that hel ...
OCT 23, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
OCT 23, 2020
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
Since its birth in the early 20th century, atomic research has brought mostly positive impacts to our lives. This week i ...
NOV 14, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
New Genetic Test Identifies Cannabis THC Levels from Seeds
NOV 14, 2020
New Genetic Test Identifies Cannabis THC Levels from Seeds
Researchers from the University of Minnesota have developed a genetic test that can predict how much cannabidiol (CBD) o ...
NOV 15, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Novel Cancer-Driving Genes are Discovered
NOV 15, 2020
Novel Cancer-Driving Genes are Discovered
Cells have to be able to divide so new ones can replenish cells that get worn out, dysfunctional, or that accumulate dam ...
NOV 20, 2020
Technology
'Motorized Sensors' for Disease Detection
NOV 20, 2020
'Motorized Sensors' for Disease Detection
What would likely increase the survival of a person with a deadly disease? Early detection—although depending on t ...
Loading Comments...