Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

vendredi 10 septembre 2004

Current computers don't have a clue about what their users feel or think. This is about to change, with ATHEMOS (Automatic THErmal Monitoring System), a device developed by Ioannis Pavlidis, a computer science professor at the University of Houston (UH). This news release from UH says that ATHEMOS is a physiological device which performs touchless measurements of your vital signs, such as blood flow, pulse or breathing rate. During the three days of Wired Magazineís Nextfest, where ATHEMOS was featured, over 500 people had their vital signs measured at a distance of about 10 feet. So maybe one day, our computers will warn us to get some rest or to go jogging. Read more...

Imagine a day when your computer will be able to let you know if you need a break, alert you to take medication or even go to the doctor.
In some computer science labs at the University of Houston, such human-computer interaction is becoming a reality. Ioannis Pavlidis, associate professor of computer science at UH, and his Infrared Imaging Group at UHís computer science department in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics are leading the way with ATHEMOS (Automatic THErmal Monitoring System), a system pioneered by Pavlidis and his group that allows a computer to perform touchless physiological monitoring of its human user, including measurements of blood flow, pulse and breathing rate.
ATHEMOS was featured at Wired magazineís international Nextfest Exposition as one of the novel technologies that is expected to make a major impact in the future.
Lettuce grown in a high tunnel vegetable production Over 500 people had their vital signs measured at a distance of about 10 feet during the 3 days of Nextfest. Here is Dr. Henry Schneiderman from the Carnegie Mellon University observing his vital signs on the screen. And here is a link to a larger version of this photo where you can better see what's on the screen. (Credit: Ioannis Pavlidis)

Pavlidis wrote a news report and took many other photos during the Nextfest exhibit.

How does this work? A thermal imaging camera is monitoring you.

The sensing element is a thermal imaging camera that is employed as a computer peripheral. Through bioheat modeling of facial imagery, almost the full range of vital signs can be extracted. This physiological information can then be used to draw inferences about a variety of health symptoms on a continuous basis.
"An increased anxiety level, for instance, is indicated when we detect periorbital warming through thermal imaging," Pavlidis said. "That is, the temperature goes up around the area surrounding the orbit of the eye due to increased blood flow, telling us that our subject is experiencing some sort of emotional distress. This periorbital area is the facial area affected the most from blood flow redistribution during anxious states."

Pavlidis received a $640K grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue to work on this project during the next three years. So what can we expect in three years?

As the principal investigator, Pavlidis aims to add a new dimension in human-computer interaction, with the project aspiring to use the abundant computing resources at home and the office in combination with novel sensing, algorithmic and interface methods to enhance the userís experience and, at the same time, create a new preventive medicine paradigm. At a distance of up to several feet from the subject, a computer will be able to monitor the actual health of its user during computer use.

If you're interested by other attempts to give computers some sense of what theirs users think, you can read these previous entries, "Sandia Team Develops Cognitive Machines" ( August 15, 2003) or "New Efforts Toward Friendlier and Safer Computers" (January 26, 2004).

Sources: University of Houston news release, September 7, 2004; and various web pages

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