Take A Selfie To Measure Your Blood Pressure

The selfie is a popular activity, these days, but some new software might make this somewhat superficial pastime a whole lot more useful.  

Researchers in a new study from the University of Toronto have devised a way to accurately measure blood pressure using your phone’s camera, using a new technology called transdermal optical imaging, or TOI.  Essentially, TOI works by commandeering your phone’s optical sensors to capture any red light that is reflected from hemoglobin under the skin. This converts the reading into a measurement of blood flow changes.  

In a press release published in accompaniment of the study, the researchers describe how TOI capitalizes on the translucent nature of facial skin, allowing for the measurement of blood pressure. Through a simple two-minute video capturing 1,338 Chinese and Canadian test subjects, on an iPhone, the research team conclude this is an effective way to measure blood pressure. 

Lead study author Kang Lee explains, “From the video captured by the technology, you can see how the blood flows in different parts of the face and through this ebb and flow of blood in the face, you can get a lot of information.”

Lee also happens to be the co-founder of a startup called Nuralogix. This company recently released an app called Anura, which allows people to test transdermal optical imaging software for measurements of simply things like stress level and resting heart rate.  He goes on to say that while this new use for TOI is promising, it definitely requires more research and testing to ensure every measurement is accurate. For example, this initial study did not involve people with very fair or much darker skin tones. 

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education professor of Applied Psychology and Human Development adds, “In order to improve our app to make it usable, particularly for people with hypertension, we need to collect at lot of data from them, which is very, very hard because a lot of them are already taking medicine. Ethically, we cannot tell them not to take medicine, but from time to time, we get participants who do not take medicine so we can get hypertension and hypotensive people this way.”