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New Video-Analysis Software Sees Heartbeats

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(ISNS) -- A new computer program can take someone's pulse without laying a finger on them. It analyzes videos of people trying to hold still and spots a tiny tic that betrays every heartbeat.

Not yet tested in a clinical setting, the algorithm could provide a way to check the health of newborns and elderly people with easily damaged skin. A camera feeding into the program could, in principle, monitor someone continuously.

Guha Balakrishnan, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student who presented his team's project June 27 at the IEEE Computer Vision Pattern Recognition conference in Portland, Ore., didn't set out to study the heart. He planned to measure people's breathing rates by filming their heads moving up and down, in time with the expansion and contraction of their lungs. But then his videos revealed a subtle, intriguing spasm that occurred at regular intervals.

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