The next time you go to the doctors surgery, your GP may be able to take your vitals without even touching you, thanks to new remote sensing technology being developed in Japan.
Scientists are working on a method of detecting your heartbeat without sensors on the body, which they claim is as accurate as an electrocardiogram (ECG).
It could be used for ‘casual sensing’ of heart activity as people go about their lives, providing more accurate readings of people’s typical cardiac activity under a range of conditions.
Working with electronics manufacturer Panasonic, scientists at the Kyoto University Center of Innovation, can remotely detect the ‘lub dub’ of a beating heart.
Hiroyuki Sakai, a researcher at Panasonic, explained: ‘Taking measurements with sensors on the body can be stressful and troublesome, because you have to stop what you’re doing.
‘What we tried to make was something that would offer people a way to monitor their body in a casual and relaxed environment.’
The approach uses millimetre-wave spread-spectrum radar technology to catch the ‘chaotic soup’ of signals sent out by the body.
An algorithm then processes the information to pick out the signals from the noise.
Professor Toru Sato, a professor of communications and computer engineering at Kyoto University, added: ‘Heartbeats aren’t the only signals the radar catches.
‘The body sends out all sorts of signals at once, including breathing and body movement.
‘It’s a chaotic soup of information
‘Our algorithm differentiates all of that. It extracts waves characteristic of heart beats from the radar signal and calculates their intervals.’
‘Now that we know that remote sensing is possible, we’ll need to make the measurement ability more robust so that the system can monitor subjects in various age ranges and in many different contexts,’ added Professor Sato.
He told MailOnline: ‘This is a test system consisting of commercial parts available in the market, and has a size of about 50cm.
‘Panasonic will make a much more compact system when they develop a commercial product, although the plan is not fixed yet.’
He added that the team expect the device to be available ‘in a few to several years from now.’
A remote heart sensor would add to the emerging range of contactless medical devices.
Gaming consoles have already taken the lead in the field.
In 2013, Microsoft demonstrated that its next-generation Kinect sensor is able to detect and monitor a person’s heart rate from around four feet away – without touching them.