Rochester, N.Y. - On the computer screen is a moving peaked line that resembles an electrocardiogram. In reality, it is a very similar measurement of a woman’s heart taken from 25 feet away from where she is sitting.
“We can measure the heart rate in terms of beats per minute and whether the beat is changing over time,” says Laliut K. Mestha, a Xerox Research Fellow.
There are no monitors attached to the patient. Only an ordinary web cam fitted with a special lens which is able to zero in on what is going on below the skin. “These cameras are not just taking pretty pictures they are helping to improve the health,” Mestha said.
The lens that makes all of this possible belongs to a Xerox color printer. It turns out technology that uses light pulses to make sure every color copy comes out the same, can also penetrate human skin.
“It’s reflected not just from the skin’s surface but from beneath the skin. You don’t see it with your bare eye but the camera records it,” says Mestha.
The sensors measure heartbeat, blood pressure and even the capacity of the lungs to hold a breath of air.
In a trial at the University of Rochester, the cameras successfully detected irregular heartbeats in two cardiac patients by measuring those color changes below their skin. The sensor was as successful as a traditional E.K.G.
Using this technology it may one day be possible to monitor the hearts of premature babies without having to use electro devices pressed to their sensitive skin. A trial resting the technology is underway in a NICU unit in India.
An actual prototype and clinical trials are both a long way off. But, the sensors and the applications for them are promising.
“For me, the biggest satisfaction I get is if I can make this technology work to save lives.” Says Mestha.