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Seeing a Pulse


I probably should file this under “we’re living in the world of the future” rather than Computers but that is the nearest category I have and this trick does involve computers. A recent article which caught my eye on BoingBoing was about using video software to “see” someone’s pulse.

You can visit that site for pictures and video but what it seems to come down to is similar to the kind of processing I often do on my photos. However, rather than enhancing still images to achieve things like making fuzzy parts look sharper, it applies such filters to digital video. This allows the viewer to see things that are invisible to the unaided eye, such as amplifying the subtle colour change that occurs as a pulse sends blood rushing through the many tiny vessels underlying the face.

Is it just a cool trick? It is clear that it can also be much more than this. For example, it means you could monitor the pulse rate of an infant in a neonatal unit without having to attach the child to a piece of equipment just by setting a machine to watch with enhanced vision and converting the visual pulse into numbers that can trigger an alarm if they start to drift outside a normal range. I don’t know what processing power is involved but I suspect it is relatively low; I wonder when I can download the app for my phone?

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