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Thoughts, observations and experimentation on interaction by: Smart Design

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A first look under a microscope reveals all kinds of activities and entities that we never knew existed. What if we could suddenly see other things that are happening right in front of us, like subtle changes in skin tone as blood flows through our bodies or deformations in buildings caused by wind stresses?

Researchers at MIT CSAIL have been working on methods for analyzing and manipulating video footage in an effort to “amplify” moments that would otherwise be invisible to the human eye. Called “motion magnification”, the technique involves locating pixels that are changing in a scene and then exaggerating those changes and adding them back in a new set of video footage. The result is breathtaking, allowing scientists to “see” a person’s heart rate, or locate discrepancies in blood flow throughout the body. It essentially becomes a “microscope for small motions”.

This New York Times video shows how the technique works:

The technique is similar to what was used for the heart rate mirror that we saw during a visit to the MIT Media Lab last year (and was represented in cartoon form in the NY Times piece, “A Day in the Near Future”).

The code is open source and more detail about the technique and the theories behind it can be found in a SIGGRAPH paper:

Posted by: Carla Diana


  1. Anne van Rossum says:

    Although the source can be downloaded, it is not so much open in the sense that it can be used and modified as with normal BSD, Apache, or GPL licenses. It comes with a restrictive agreement, see forbidding commercial use, or the use out of research/academic contest (say for example hobby projects). They also filed a patent. I just don’t want your readers to have the idea that this is a technique that they can use.

  2. Carla Diana says:

    Thanks, Anne – that’s a great detail to note, and it’s a shame that non-academics have to fall into a “hobbyist” category.

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