Ming-Zher Poh, an electrical and medical engineering student at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences has come up with the idea of creating a system that can monitor heart rate and other vital signs, using webcam. All that is needed is to look into a camera or even into a mirror in front of a camera. To determine the heart rate, the student used software that detects position of the face and analyzes the minor changes in brightness of blood vessels in the face. To prevent errors caused by the movements and different light, he applied Independent Component Analysis method that made it possible to distinguish the heart rate from other noises.
During the experiment, the student used a two-way mirror and a computer monitor with build-in camera so that a person could stand in front of the mirror, while it tracks the vital signs.
The results of the experiment were compared with those received from the measurements of the FDA approved monitoring device and they proved to be reliable. The system worked effectively even if a person was moving in front of the mirror and obtained accurate heart rate signals from three people, who stood in front of the camera at the same time.
Poh plans to add other features, so that this system could easily track respiration, blood pressure and blood oxygen level.