Cameras in the News

E-mail Melanie Martella

A couple of recent news stories caught my eye this week, both from the BBC, and both of them entail the novel use of cameras. One story deals with a new imager that helps the medical staff treating burn victims to obtain a clearer idea of the bloodflow in and around burns while the other story deals with using cameras to spot liars.

Humans are deeply visual creatures—our brains are designed to digest visual information so it's no surprise that we're constantly finding new and different ways to visualize data, whether that data concerns spotting diseased trees, mapping floodplains, or diagnosing cancer. It's just a matter of figuring out what type of imaging can give you the information you want.

If you're a doctor caring for a burn patient, you want to know how bad the burn is and how much blood circulation is occurring in and around the wound. If there's no blood flowing in an area, that portion of tissue will die and the patient will need a skin graft. If there is blood flowing, the skin can heal the damage. Aïmago SA has created something they call a microcirculation camera that uses laser doppler imaging to create false color pictures of the blood flow. Using the images allows the medical staff to rapidly assess the severity and depth of the burn and the best way to treat it. The BBC News story explains the technology in greater detail, and the images in the article are beautiful.

The second BBC News story, "New emotion detector can see when we're lying" deals with the application of imaging technology to the persistently thorny problem of how to spot liars. When we tell an untruth, we give ourselves away in a number of ways. If you ever watched the TV series Lie to Me, then you'll know some of the methods they used to figure out whether people were telling the truth or not, such as microexpressions), changes in respiration, and so on, all of which are actually based on real scientific research. University of Bradford researcher Professor Hassan Ugail has now coupled a video camera, a thermal imager, and a whack of algorithms to track how a volunteer's facial expression and facial blood flow changes in response to their changing emotions and (so the plan goes) to telling a lie. While I suspect this would be much harder to fox than the more commonly used polygraph, it's still early days, it tracks emotion not lies, and neither method can help you if the person being tested believes the lies they're telling. Ah well.

As our digital imaging options expand, who knows what we'll figure out next!