Webcam pulse monitor from Japan

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Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. has developed software that measures a person’s pulse from an image of their face as seen by a webcam-style camera, the company said.

It said a portable device such as a smartphone could, therefore, become a sophisticated pulse-rate monitor with a wide range of potential uses, including as a gadget to monitor one’s health condition. It might have potential security applications, too, as a monitor to check the pulse rate of a person acting suspiciously in a public place.

The software works by detecting variations in the brightness of a person’s face, which pulses subtly according to blood flow.

And it is easy to use: The device needs only to be pointed at somebody’s face; within five seconds it is possible to calculate a pulse rate; and if the person stays in place, it can detect changes in real time.

It has a margin of error of three beats per minute, compared to the often 100 percent accuracy achieved when measuring a person’s pulse directly by touching their skin.

The device can be used if it is sufficiently bright to capture the color changes in a person’s face. But tests showed it could work even in situations where a woman subject is wearing makeup, Fujitsu said.

The company said there could be important applications in security, where a suspect’s abnormally high pulse rate can indicate ill-intent. It could also be used to monitor the stress levels of company employees.

The company said it would work toward developing the software into some practical form in fiscal 2013.

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