Selfies are usually only good for sharing your face with the world via social media — but there might actually be a more useful application for them now.
Companies are developing 30-second selfie health checks that can be taken with any smartphone front-facing camera.
The technology relies on a process called transdermal optical imaging, which detects facial blood flow patterns under the skin.
The solution developed by the Canadian company Nuralogix can provide more than 30 readings from the selfie scan alone.
This data is sent to the cloud, where it is compared against a machine learning algorithm trained on a database of more than 40,000 patients.
Blood flow patterns were measured on the face of these patients, and the group consisted of people of all ages, medical conditions, gender and skin tone, the company said.
“We found that as your physiological state and the human body changes, you become stressed and patterns change,” explains Lindsay Brennan, Senior Marketing Specialist at Nuralogix.
“But they’re so tiny, they’re so imperceptible that you can’t actually see them with the human eye. But we’ve found that the cameras on each device can actually detect these changes. So our technology actually works with any iPad, laptop, anything with a front camera,” she told Euronews Next.
The technology isn’t a diagnostic tool, but it can predict risk levels for various conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
“What we give you is a risk profile,” Brennan said. “So we’re telling you, based on your results here, that you’re more prone to stroke or heart disease, for example. Companies that actually integrate our technology sometimes build a recommendation system.”
Do the selfie scan
Euronews Next put the technology to the test at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and luckily our reporter’s findings gave him no immediate cause for concern.
The user must remain still in front of the camera for 30 seconds while the app performs the scan. It then shoots the data to the cloud, processes it against the algorithm and, after another short pause, delivers the results.
Swiping through the results reveals readings for heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and even things like facial skin age and psychological stress.
It is important to note that the company states that the product’s performance characteristics have not been established and its use is currently “for informational purposes only”.
Brennan explained that they are currently in the process of seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the US and that they are now selling the platform commercially for “public health, public awareness” purposes.
They currently have around 100 clients around the world, 40 of which are based in Europe.
A French start-up, i-Virtual, recently received EU certification for a medical device that uses the same type of technology to monitor vital signs with just a 30-second selfie video. “Caducy” measures a patient’s heart rate, breathing rate and stress level.
According to I-Virtual, a clinical study of over 1,000 patients showed an accuracy of 95 percent. It told Euronews Next it now hopes to license the technology for teleconsultation and telemonitoring platforms to give healthcare professionals a quick look at their patients’ vital signs.