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Fujitsu tech scans your face to take your pulse

Japan's Fujitsu announces a system that measures pulses in as little as 5 seconds using built-in cameras in PCs, smartphones, or tablets. Does that get your pulse racing?

A Fujitsu engineer in Tokyo demonstrates the company's real-time pulse monitor system, which uses cameras in PCs, tablets, or smartphones to measure a user's pulse.
Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Want an instant pulse check? Look into the lens.

Fujitsu today announced a technology that can take a person's pulse in real time using the built-in camera on a smartphone, tablet, or PC.

The system reads pulses by measuring variations in the brightness of the face thought to be caused by blood flow. It requires no special hardware and can measure pulse rate in as little as 5 seconds, positioning it as a possible tool for easy self-monitoring, anytime and anywhere, without the need for a special device. It could also be used by security teams to detect people acting suspiciously in public venues such as concerts and airports, Fujitsu says.

Blood hemoglobin absorbs green light. Fujitsu's technology works by shooting video of the subject and calculating average values for the red, green, and blue in a certain part of the face for each frame. Then it essentially extracts the brightness waveform from the green component and computes pulse rate based on that data.

While apps already on the market, such as Cardiio, work according to the same blood-flow principle, Fujitsu aims to bundle its software right into consumer devices. The company will offer further details of the technology at the 2013 General Conference of the Institute of Electronics, Information, and Communication Engineers, which starts tomorrow in Gifu, Japan. The Japanese firm says it aims to put the system into "practical use" this year.

The pulse-measuring innovation joins a growing list of products that place health-data gathering directly into the hands of consumers and their everyday gadgets -- an app paired with an earlobe sensor that measures heart rate to help the user de-stress, for example; a urine sample app that helps people gauge their pee samples; and even an app that can help identify concussions at the scene of an injury.

Of course, if Fujitsu demonstrates the software on any particularly exciting new devices, it should probably expect to see lots of quickened pulses.

Green: It's not just for jealously anymore. Fujitsu