Computer scientists developing 'nurturing' computers

Sep 07, 2004

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. In some computer science labs at the University of Houston, such human-computer interaction is becoming a reality. Ioannis Pavlidis, associate professor of computer science at UH, and his Infrared Imaging Group at UH's computer science department in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics are leading the way with ATHEMOS (Automatic THErmal Monitoring System), a system pioneered by Pavlidis and his group that allows a computer to perform touchless physiological monitoring of its human user, including measurements of blood flow, pulse and breathing rate. ATHEMOS was featured at Wired magazine's international Nextfest Exposition as one of the novel technologies that is expected to make a major impact in the future.

Pavlidis recently was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) from its Division of Information and Intelligent Systems for $640,169 to be spread across three years for research titled "Interacting with Human Physiology." With its goal to monitor the actual health of a subject during computer use, the Pavlidis project plans to incorporate physiologic monitoring in human-computer interaction. The sensing element is a thermal imaging camera that is employed as a computer peripheral. Through bioheat modeling of facial imagery, almost the full range of vital signs can be extracted. 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."

Since current computers are almost completely unaware of the actual state of the human user, researchers are proposing methods for computers to understand and respond to computer users' feelings and physical states. This would enable a two-way exchange, with each participant (computer and human) aware of the other and responding appropriately.

As the principal investigator, Pavlidis aims to add a new dimension in human-computer interaction, with the project aspiring to use the abundant computing resources at home and the office in combination with novel sensing, algorithmic and interface methods to enhance the user's experience and, at the same time, create a new preventive medicine paradigm. At a distance of up to several feet from the subject, a computer will be able to monitor the actual health of its user during computer use.

"Most people often wait until becoming symptomatic before checking on the status of their health," Pavlidis said. "With typical health checks occurring at a doctor's office, where the environment is isolated and often static, one can make the argument that the value of such check ups is often limited. Chronic ailments, for instance, such as heartbeat irregularities, headaches and anxiety disorders, often manifest themselves intermittently for short intervals in a random manner, involving any number of situational and environmental variables."

Pavlidis will collaborate with the Medical Usability Lab of Columbia University in New York and the Physiology Lab of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for the human experimentation aspects of the project.

Explore further: Why seashells' mineral forms differently in seawater

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study shows troubling rise in use of animals in experiments

4 hours ago

Despite industry claims of reduced animal use as well as federal laws and policies aimed at reducing the use of animals, the number of animals used in leading U.S. laboratories increased a staggering 73 percent from 1997 ...

NY surveying banks on cyber security defenses

6 hours ago

(AP)—New York financial regulators are considering tougher cyber security requirements for banks to mandate more complex computer sign-ins and certifications from the contractors of their cyber defenses, the state's top ...

Life-saving train design is rarely used

7 hours ago

(AP)—Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. secretary of transportation stood at the site of a horrendous commuter train crash near downtown Los Angeles and called for the adoption of a new train car design that ...

Climate change may flatten famed surfing waves

7 hours ago

On a summer day in 1885, three Hawaiian princes surfed at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River on crudely constructed boards made from coastal redwoods, bringing the sport to the North American mainland.

Recommended for you

Why seashells' mineral forms differently in seawater

37 minutes ago

For almost a century, scientists have been puzzled by a process that is crucial to much of the life in Earth's oceans: Why does calcium carbonate, the tough material of seashells and corals, sometimes take ...

Giant virus revealed in 3-D using X-ray laser

1 hour ago

For the first time, researchers have produced a 3-D image revealing part of the inner structure of an intact, infectious virus, using a unique X-ray laser at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator ...

Magnetic vortices in nanodisks reveal information

2 hours ago

Researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) together with a colleague at the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Strasbourg ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.