How do you make the invisible visible?
I’m not talking about one of those CSI episodes, where team runs the black-light camera around a crime scene to check for evidence.
I’m referring to how you make seemingly invisible motion visible to the naked eye.
Well, trust the brains at MIT to figure it out.
Scientists there have come up with a new video-recording method that “amplifies” motion. And they say it could lead to a groundbreaking way to monitor a person’s vital signs without needing to touch them, plus giving engineers a much deeper, real-time insight into stress and trouble spots on bridges and tunnels.
Here’s how it works…
The Motion Microscope Sees Movement That Humans Can’t
At MIT, graduate student in applied mathematics and computer science, Neal Wadhwa, is running a familiar experiment.
He’s placed a wine glass next to a speaker. When the speaker emits enough noise, it makes the glass vibrate.
But how do you see the movement that takes place?
With a “motion microscope.”
As Wadhwa says, “The motion microscope is a way to visualize small motions that are seemingly invisible to the naked eye in videos. These are things that people have never seen before, and we’re making them visible.”
That video is fed to a computer that’s equipped with the team’s new software. The program is able to track minute changes in the video, pixel by pixel. Those changes are then amplified and imposed on to the original video, so the movements can be seen.
And the results?
Not Just Lab Technology
In a word: unique.
Otherwise invisible changes in skin tone on a person’s face can now be tracked – changes that reflect blood flow and heart rate. Similarly, the heartbeat of a baby can be magnified. Take a look…
The beauty of this high-powered motion microscope is that it can “create a non-contact vital signs monitor, so you don’t need to attach anything to a person, and you’ll still be able to figure out their heart rate and respiration rate,” says Wadhwa.
As well as monitoring lives, this technology could also save lives. When used to examine critical parts of the transportation infrastructure like bridges and tunnels, its heightened sensitivity picks up on irregular movements or vibrations in the construction, as it seeks out any structural damage.
For a world that’s constantly in motion, the researchers say their technology offers a more intimate insight into how this motion happens when we can’t actually see it.