Magical App Uses Your Phone’s Camera to Accurately Measure Your Pulse

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” That’s the quote by science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke that you’ll find on Cardiio‘s homepage. It’s a quote that is quite appropriate, given what the app can do.

The app is a touch-free heart rate monitor that can accurately tell you your pulse by simply looking at your face through your phone’s camera.

It’s based on some amazing research being done over at MIT’s Media Lab. Simply point your phone’s camera at your face, and the app will inform you of your heart rate to within 3 beats per minute of a clinical instrument.

Here’s how they explain the technology:

Cardiio’s technology is based on cutting-edge research and science conducted at the MIT Media Lab. The measurement principles are the same as clinical pulse oximeters. Every time your heart beats, more blood rushes through the vessels in your face, causing them to expand. The increase in blood volume absorbs more light, resulting in a decrease in the amount of light reflected from your face. Using sophisticated software, your iPhone’s front camera can track these tiny variations in light that are invisible to the naked eye to calculate your heart rate.

In addition, the app also logs your heart rates and turns the data into useful charts and facts, including your heartbeat history, a fitness level rating, estimated life expectancy (wow), and how your pulse stacks up with other people:

This technology seems like something that phone makers would want to license and build into their phones. It certainly fits Apple’s goal of building magical and stupidly simple products.

You can pick up a copy of the app over in the iTunes App Store for $5. Reviews so far have been excellent.

Cardiio in the iTunes App Store (via

Update: Apparently there’s an app by Philips released around a year ago that does the same thing (thx Patrick).

Image credits: Screenshots by Cardiio Inc.

  • Mirkus

    2:06 150 bpm?!? That baby’s going to expose!

  • 2012orbust

    I hear they will upgrade in version 2 to help those with even the faintest trace of a heart – such as bats, or political candidates…

  • Gonzalo Roca Acevedo


  • c0ldc0ne

    Not indecently I hope.

  • RioRyan

    Cardiio is the first instance of that research project’s technology meeting the world of ordinary consumers, turning technology into magic.

    No it isn’t, I had this on my phone a couple years ago. Apparently not many people found out about it… You had to hold your finger up to it though, couldn’t use a face

  • Sasha

    Yeah I had an iPhone app like this well over a year ago…

  • Eugene S

    I just want to clarify something. The creators of the Cardiio app are NOT the same as the authors of the SIGGRAPH paper. The Cardiio App is based on work done at the MIT Media Lab, while the SIGGRAPH work was conducted at MIT CSAIL. Please correct your article