Computer health check

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.

Thanks to Ioannis Pavlidis, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Houston (UH), and his Infrared Imaging Group at UH’s computer science department in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, this may soon be possible.

The ATHEMOS (Automatic THErmal Monitoring System), they are developing allows a computer to perform physiological monitoring of its human user, including measurements of blood flow, pulse and breathing rate during computer use.

The sensing element used in the system is a thermal imaging camera that captures the distribution of heat flow on the human face, which the computer can then analyse. 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 recently was awarded a $640,169 grant from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) from its Division of Information and Intelligent Systems to pursue the idea further.

Pavlidis will collaborate with the Medical Usability Lab of Columbia University in New York and the Physiology Lab of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN to trial the system.