Telltale Heartbeats

Mar 4 2013 @ 8:35am

MIT scientists have developed an algorithm that amplifies subtle changes in videos, making it easy to spot movement that would be invisible to the naked eye. Rebecca Rosen is impressed by a demonstration:

For many new parents, the urge to check on a sleeping baby can be maddening. Is the baby still breathing? Unless the baby is a noisy sleeper, a traditional baby monitor won’t tell you much, and constantly going into the little one’s room isn’t a great option either. New video software from scientists at MIT may give parents what they want: Images of their sleeping child, with its chest positively oceanic in its heaving, the ebb and flow of oxygen into the human body so dramatic you could spot it at a distance.

But Erik Olsen reveals some less noble intentions for the technology:

Michael Rubinstein, a doctoral student and co-author on the project, said that after the presentation and subsequent media coverage, the team was inundated with e-mails inquiring about the availability of the program for uses ranging from health care to lie detection in law enforcement. Some people, says Mr. Rubinstein, inquired about how the program might be used in conjunction with Google’s glasses to see changes in a person’s face while gambling. “People wanted to be able to analyze their opponent during a poker game or blackjack and be able to know whether they’re cheating or not, just by the variation in their heart rate,” he said.