Just by looking at photographs, “naive observers” in a Swedish study were able to determine – at a rate better than chance – which participants had been infected with an E. coli endotoxin and which had not.
The visual cues that gave away “acutely sick” individuals included pale lips and skin, a more swollen face, droopy mouths, hanging eyelids, redder eyes, less glossy skin, and a general appearance of being tired.
Kevin Bowyer: I actually think that that work is in progress right now, and that you will see results in the next year or two. Not just in terms of physical health, but mental health. There are groups that are looking at the time sequence of face imagery – do you appear less alert, more stressed, sort of thing. So [they’re] monitoring your psychological wellbeing as well as your physical wellbeing from the time sequence of face images. You might also get the person’s pulse rate, or their respiration rate, from a face video. So you might have additional information beyond just the face… which might be useful for truck drivers or heavy equipment operators. You would pass an alertness test, or “healthiness test,” before you operate certain types of equipment.
I think the data would be useful. But are people signing on to have their longitudinal health condition monitored by the smartphone and reported to somebody? Whether it’s Apple or the Center for Disease Control, I think there’d be some privacy discussions.
Let’s say at the shopping mall I’ve got the same cameras that are up now that are telling me that a young Asian female is walking up to the counter. And maybe they display an advertisement that’s appropriate for that demographic. But now it’s saying something about [her] health condition and reporting that to someone. I think people have realized that people are getting advertisements tailored to them. [But] we’re potentially crossing a line when you begin to report semi-anonymous health information to another party.make-up confusing face recognition algorithms and making it harder. And you could kind of intentionally make it harder in some ways. So, certainly, you could use foundation or something to cover up the lack of face color. You could probably also, if you wanted the day off, you know, put the right make-up on to make you look like you were sick and take the selfie and say, “Ooh, I can’t come in today, I’m contagious!”
Kevin W. Boyer is a professor of computer science and engineering at Notre Dame University in the US. His research interests include computer vision, pattern recognition, biometrics, data mining, object recognition and medical image analysis.