Philips recently launched an iPad app, Vital Signs Camera, that measures the user's heart rate and breathing via the tablet's front-facing camera. The $0.99 app, available only for the iPad 2, is intended for entertainment purposes only.
The app measures the users heart rate by determining blood flow to the face based on the color of the users skin, and breathing rate by analyzing the motion of their chest. Users place the iPad on a table and position their face inside the marked area designated within the app.
Philips, on its website, writes that the technology has been in development for three years, and that it is licensing the tech out to third parties.
A similar project out of the MIT Media Lab was widely discussed in the press last October. (Check out the demo video posted over at Engadget here.) A speaker at this past year's HIMSS event also mentioned similar technology.
The app is likely to have a limited user base since it works only with the iPad 2 (the first-generation iPad has no camera) currently.
To distinguish itself as app not looking for FDA clearance, a disclaimer appears in the app's description, stating that "the Vital Signs Camera App for iPad 2 is not intended for diagnosis or for clinical measurements, monitoring or decision making. Measurements and statistics are provided for entertainment purposes only." Many health and medical apps have similar disclaimers.
The app is also reminiscent of Azumio's popular Instant Heart Rate app, which estimates a user's heart rate based on the blood flowing through the user's finger as read by the phone's camera. That app has had more than 10 million downloads since it launched.