The days of needing a smartphone, smartwatch, or earphones to measure your heart rate accurately may be a thing of the past as Panasonic has developed a new camera that can measure your heart rate simply by taking a picture that shows your skin somewhere in the shot. This technique was demonstrated in the middle of February at Wonder Japans Solutions and will work on both a still shot or via a video recording and is called “Contactless Vital Sensing.” It operates on the basis that as blood pulses through your veins there is a change in the skin’s light reflectance. Blood absorbs light, but the amount it absorbs changes with the way the blood vessels constrict. This constriction is caused by the brain waves sent out, and this brain wave activity is what the software is using to calculate your heart rate. So the camera senses the changes in the reflectiveness of the skin, caused by constrictions of the blood vessels, which are determined by brain waves. Based on these changes in the skin, the software can work backward to determine your brain waves and use that to determine your heart rate.
Panasonic’s demonstration used a person’s face, but they claim it will work anywhere the camera can see the skin of the individual. This will work on almost any camera and even a webcam and has demonstrated to be as accurate as a medical measurement. Panasonic is hoping to market the technology next year and is counting on sports TV stations to be the first to adopt its use. They believe that it will add excitement to watching a wrestling or boxing match. Viewers will not only be able to see the action but feel it as well as they watch the heart beat rate change with each punch or knock down or knock out. Its applications are far-reaching and could be used in offices to measure employee stress, perhaps monitor you while driving to prevent accidents, or even as part of a lie detector to measure stress.
There was no word on the cost this might add to a smartphone or webcam, which could determine just how widespread its usage becomes. It could be quite convenient to take a selfie before and after a workout to compare the difference. Built right into the camera and software would eliminate the need for a separate module on the back of your smartphone, as Samsung does.