Posted on February 19, 2020 by staff

Experts claim smartphone camera can spot depression


Experts at the University of Nottingham have developed what they claim is a technology able to spot changes in behaviour caused by conditions ranging from stress to depression.

Dr Michel Valstar, Dr Anthony Brown and Dr Timur Almaev developed the technology, which uses cameras to spot the changes in physical behaviour and facial expression caused by the conditions.

The claim is that the technology is a quicker route to diagnosing mental health problems which could soon be available on a mobile phone.

The creator’s business BlueSkeye AI is being supported by the University through Nottingham Technology Ventures, which manages the University’s portfolio of spin-out businesses.

BlueSkeye AI blends mental health research with specialist expertise in computer vision, machine learning and AI.

Its team has worked with psychiatrists, specialist nurses and primary care trusts to analyse the common signs of mental health problems and devise monitoring systems which are capable of picking them up.

Dr. Valstar explained: “The idea stems from work that we have been involved with to try to identify and recognise depressive illnesses. One of the physical changes which takes place if people have a mental health issue is motor control, and that can manifest itself in changes in facial expression and tone of voice.

“What we have developed is technology which senses changes from which we can identify all the cues of medical conditions which change your behaviour – a field we call behaviomedics.”

Working with Nottingham Technology Ventures (NTV), BlueSkeye has already identified a number of potential uses for its technology, which is likely to be licensed to partners able to integrate it with their digital healthcare platforms.

“BlueSkeye AI will put the ability to monitor mental health into the hands of individuals and medical professionals by building an affordable and accessible tool on mobile.”

Dr Andy Naylor, the CEO of NTV said it is helping the team identify routes to market and secure further financial backing.

“Many people will be familiar with the work of Sir Peter Mansfield and his team in developing the technology behind the MRI scanner, and health research remains an important priority for the University.

“Our decision to support BlueSkeye reflects not only a belief that this represents an important opportunity but also the fact that it could help to identify, treat and manage conditions which affect very many people.”

The University has helped its spin-out companies to secure millions of pounds in funding to develop technologies in fields which range from manufacturing to mental health.

It has invested nearly £900,000 during the past year in nine businesses which began life as university research projects. As well as managing the University’s portfolio of 22 spin-out companies NTV works in partnership with specialist investment funds such as Mercia Technologies and Foresight Group.