In an interesting twist on hyper-reality, researchers at MIT have combined a high-speed camera with special software of exaggerate things that go on around us all in the everyday world that we are generally unable to see naturally. In a paper published on the MIT News site, and associated PDF, the researchers explain that the odd and interesting results they get came about by accident. In reality, they were trying to find the hidden colors in everyday objects. CNET explains that the two were closely aligned, because it’s the coloring combined with slight movement that allows for the creation of the eerie videos the team has created thus far; an example can be seen on a video they’ve posted on YouTube.
The team says that what they’re doing is capturing movement so subtle that it’s virtually invisible to the naked eye and exaggerating it slightly so that it can be seen. One example is the slight push against the skin in the wrist that indicates a beating heart. The movement is so slight that it cannot be seen generally without at least a magnifying glass. But, using the high-speed camera and the software the team has been working of for the better part of two years, and that heart beat can be very clearly seen. Likewise, in another example, an infant sleeping has such a slight chest rise, that it takes very close observation to see it. With the MIT team’s system, that breathing can be seen with a simple glance, which highlights one of the uses to which the system will likely but put; namely, as a baby monitor for preemies in hospitals.
CNET points out that the system will likely have far more uses, because it can detect subtle changes over short periods of time as well. One example is when people breathe in, their skin color changes ever so slightly as the oxygen makes its way to the blood. Normally, such a change is imperceptible, but with the MIT system, that change in skin color can be seen almost as if in cartoon form, with the skin on a subject’s face moving cyclically between pale white and bright red. Of course the same principle is at work when people experience a sudden bout of stress, say, when confronted with an embarrassing question. Watching the degree to which the skin on their face reacts could be construed as a form of lie detection.
The new software isn’t for sale just yet, but undoubtedly will be soon, and once that happens, it’s very likely to wind up in all sorts of applications from medical, to monitoring to Hollywood movie making.