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The iPhone checkup: Apple patents system to use the front camera and sensors to monitor everything from a user's emotional state to their blood pressure and body fat

Posted on 9/08/2017 by David Burgess

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  • Apple is working on a way to take users' health measurements using the iPhone
  • It would use the front-facing camera along with light and proximity sensors
  • It could measure body fat, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and more
  • Would even be able to estimate a user's emotional state 

Apple is working no a way to take users' health measurements using the iPhone

An patent granted to Apple today details how the front-facing camera along with the light, proximity and other sensors found in the company's existing phone's could potentially measure body fat, perform electrocardiogram (ECG) readings and even estimate the user's emotional state.

It could also monitor breathing and detect circulatory conditions.

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An isometric view an example system for obtaining health data utilizing an electronic device.

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and the same view depicting someone using the device to collect health data (right)

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An isometric view of an example system for obtaining health data utilizing an electronic device (left) and the same view depicting someone using the device to collect health data

WHAT COULD IT MEASURE? 

The patent describes a system in which the iPhone could use the front-facing camera along with the light, proximity and other sensors to measure health data.

Some example of health it could look into: 

-Blood pressure

-Body Fat

-Electrocardiogram (ECG) reading  

-Pulse

-Photoplethysmogram, which is related to breathing a circulatory conditions 

'Electrical measurements may be used to measure heart function, compute an electrocardiogram, compute a galvanic skin response that may be indicative of emotional state and/or other physiological condition, and/or compute other health data such as body fat, or blood pressure,' the patent says.

'The electronic device uses one or more of the camera and the proximity sensor to emit light into a body part of a user touching a surface of the electronic device and one or more of the camera, the ambient light sensor, and the proximity sensor to receive at least part of the emitted light reflected by the body part of the user,' reads the patent. 

'The electronic device computes health data of the user based upon sensor data regarding the received light.'

The patent also describes electrical contacts similar to those found on some more sophisticated bathroom scales that could provide an electrocardiogram (ECG) reading or measure body fat. 

Already, another company, Azio, makes a case for the iPhone that allows it to do EEG readings. 

A view of the system providing guidance to obtain health data (left) and 

 

 

and the system providing the data (right)

A view of the system providing guidance to obtain health data (left) and the system providing the data (right)

With just the camera and light sensor alone, data for oxygen saturation, pulse rate, perfusion index and a photoplethysmogram (which can monitor breathing rate and detect circulatory conditions) could all be captured.

Further down, the patent describes how the technology could be used for a large variety of health purposes.

'The health data may include one or more of a variety of different wellness, fitness, and/or other parameters relating to the health of a user such as: a blood pressure index, a blood hydration, a body fat content, an oxygen saturation, a pulse rate, a perfusion index, an electrocardiogram, a photoplethysmogram, and/or any other such health data,' it reads.

is a block diagram illustrating functional relationships among components of the example system

 

A block diagram illustrating functional relationships among components of the example system

It's unclear what exactly Apple plans to do with the patent and when. 

According to a separate recent patent filing, Facebook could be looking into creating a smartphone with interchangeable parts as well.

The patent is for a 'modular electromechanical device' that includes a speaker, microphone, GPS and might also function as a phone.

It will allow users can to swap different components onto a device as and when they're needed. 

The patent (pictured) is for a 'modular electromechanical device' that includes a speaker, microphone, GPS and might also function as a phone

The patent (pictured) is for a 'modular electromechanical device' that includes a speaker, microphone, GPS and might also function as a phone

 

WHAT DOES THE PATENT SHOW? 

The patent is for a 'modular electromechanical device' that includes a speaker, microphone, GPS and might also function as a phone.

The patent shows a main body and a series of modules made by 3D printing that could attach on to the main body of the phone.

It is not clear what this new device could be used for, although inside reports suggest the secretive Building 8 team are focusing on high tech cameras and machine learning. 

The patent shows a series of modules made by 3D printing that could attach on to the main body of the phone.  

Modular smartphones have generated great enthusiasm in the tech community for their potential to prolong the lifespan of a device and reduce electronic waste. 

Rather than updating the whole device, modular phones allow users to update individual components. 

Google spent years developing its Project Ara modular phone which abruptly stopped last year.

Many members of that team are now working with Facebook's Building 8 group who filed the new patent, according to Business Insider.

'Typically, the hardware components included in the consumer electronics that are considered 'outdated' are still useable', the patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office read. 

'However, the hardware components can no longer be re-used since consumer electronics are designed as closed systems.

'From a consumer prospective, the life cycle of conventional consumer electronics is expensive and wasteful', it read.

It is not clear what this new device could be used for, although inside reports suggest the secretive Building 8 team are focusing on high tech cameras and machine learning.

In September Google 'suspended' work on Project Ara, its ambitious effort to build modular smartphone with interchangeable components (pictured)

'Each module is associated with a different functionality', the patent read.  

The employees named on the patent all worked for a start-up Facebook bought last year called Nascent Objects. 

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed with MailOnline that the technology was acquired through Nascent Objects but declined to comment further. 

In September Google 'suspended' work on Project Ara, its ambitious effort to build modular smartphone with interchangeable components.

The company's aim was to create a phone that users could customise on the fly with an extra battery, camera, speakers or other components.

Source: MailOnline