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Microsoft SenseCam – Improving Health Through the Use of Cameras

The continuous increases in trends of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions have public health officials desperately searching for alternative avenues that can assist with prevention efforts. There have been various changes that have occurred recently, but drastic results have yet to be seen. The Food Pyramid has been revamped and has become MyPlate, to display a more relatable diagram to the average citizen. Prevention efforts have taken many routes in forms of exercise groups, community weight -loss programs, and even logging caloric intake into food diaries and journals.

Despite these concerted efforts, there have not yet been results that public health officials wish to see. However, the increases in technology have contributed to numerous advancements and breakthroughs in the medical field. Perhaps now is the time for another breakthrough to occur; this time, in the form of cameras.

Cameras are extremely useful and might prove even more beneficial to the health care industry than before concerning prevention efforts. The Microsoft SenseCam is a camera that is worn around an individual’s neck via a lanyard. It is designed with a wide-angle, or fish eye lens, which is able to monitor more field than a typical lens. The lens captures still images in a series, and can then be looped together to create a log of the day. This particular camera is meant to track the daily activities of the wearer, and allows playback through a USB cable connected to a computer. The wearer does not have to monitor the camera or provide supervision, as there is no viewfinder on the camera for playback. The camera contains sensors that can detect things such as light changes or motion changes, which triggers a photo to be taken. The camera is also designed to take a photo every 30 seconds as well, regardless of whether the sensors were triggered or not. The camera contains a hidden SD memory card, which disables the user from accessing images until the USB is utilized.


One particular area of healthcare where this camera may be advantageous is nutrition and dietetics. Nutrition and diet plays a significant role in the chronic health conditions that many suffer from. Dieticians currently rely on patients to make accurate self-loggings of caloric and nutrient intake through food journals and diaries. Patients may be self-conscious of just how much they are eating, and may under-report intake. Patients also may have a lack of knowledge on just how small a portion size should be, and could be under or over reporting portion sizes and servings.

Through this Microsoft SenseCam, dieticians and nutritionists would simply upload the images captured and replay it back to give direct feedback to the patient concerning nutritional intake. This would decrease the amount of self-reporting error in health efforts relating to nutrition, and allow for patients to look even more accurately at their lifestyles in order to make healthier changes. Dietary analysis would become even more accurate, and intervention efforts could become more on target.

SenseCam Example

The camera can also be used to analyze and gauge sedentary lifestyles, which is a major contributor to chronic health conditions as well. If researchers are able to gain more insight into these particular lifestyles, better approaches could be taken to address this growing health concern. These “wearable cameras” have already shown previous recordings to be wrong concerning sedentary lifestyles. Other devices such as accelerometers mislabeled standing postures, while the SenseCam correctly classified them as non-sedentary.

This camera could also be beneficial concerning patients with memory impairments, as shown in a study conducted in Cambridge by Steve Hodges, Emma Berry, and Ken Wood. This study demonstrated that the SenseCam could stimulate and rehabilitate autobiographical memory of a patient who was diagnosed with severe memory impairment. Researchers have claimed that participants who wear the SenseCam and then review images of the day, experience a flood of emotions, feelings, and thoughts. These findings could help those with severe memory impairment, as after reviewing their day, they may recollect more vividly experiences and memories. If this were so, quality of life for those suffering from memory impairments would improve. Researchers have speculated as to why these “wearable cameras” could produce such results, and they have noted that the images have a perspective of that of the viewer, which allows the viewer to remember the memory just as they experienced it. A research participant was analyzed with a functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI), and while viewing images from the SenseCam, the brain was activated in regions related to autobiographical remembering. This demonstrates that the SenseCam does indeed lay foundation for better memory recall compared to that of a journal or diary, and could be a breakthrough for those suffering from issues with memory processing and recall.

The healthcare field already currently uses cameras in a multitude of situations of testing, diagnosis, and treatment. As technology increases and improves with more and more developments, the health care industry will find even more ways to put cameras to work to improve health conditions. The Microsoft SenseCam is already showing promising results, and if advancements to the camera are continuously made, it will play a role in the treatment of a variety of health care aspects. With the Microsoft SenseCam, those who suffer from dietary conditions will be able to correctly log their intake, and display it back to their healthcare professionals. Even those who simply want to improve their diet will be able to use the camera, and perhaps applications will be used to connect image data to nutritional content to have an overall dietary assessment. Sedentary lifestyles will be able to be analyzed more accurately and public health professionals will be able to suggest ways in which patients can become more active. Those suffering from severe memory impairment will be able to view these images from the Microsoft SenseCam, and provide a clearer picture of their day-to-day activities. This could improve their relationships and overall well-being. Cameras will continue to play a role, and perhaps have an even more significant role, as the future brings better and more efficient technology.

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