Selfies tend to only be good for sharing your face with the world via social media - but there might actually be a more useful application for them now.

Companies are developing 30-second selfie health checkups, which can be carried out with any front-facing smartphone camera.

The technology relies on a process called transdermal optical imaging, which detects facial blood flow patterns under the skin.

The solution developed by Canadian company Nuralogix can provide more than 30 readings just from the selfie scan.

That data gets sent to the cloud where it is compared against a machine learning algorithm, which has been trained on a database of more than 40,000 patients.

Those patients had their facial blood flow patterns measured, and the group consisted of people of all ages, health conditions, genders, and skin tones, the company said.

“We discovered that as your physiological state shifts, the human body shifts, you get stressed and the patterns change,” explained Lindsay Brennan, senior marketing specialist at Nuralogix.

“But they're so tiny, they're so imperceptible, you actually can't see them with the human eye. But we discovered that the cameras on any device can actually pick up on these changes. So our technology actually works with any iPads, laptop, anything with a front-facing camera,” she told Euronews Next.

The technology is not a diagnostic-grade tool, but it can predict the risk level for different conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

“What we're giving you is a risk profile,” said Brennan. “So we're telling you, based on your results here, you might be more susceptible to stroke or heart disease for example. So companies that actually integrate our technology, sometimes they'll build out a recommendation system”.

Taking the selfie scan

Euronews Next put the tech to the test at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and thankfully our reporter’s results didn’t give him any immediate cause for concern.

The user has to hold still in front of the camera for 30 seconds while the app conducts the scan. It then fires the data up into the cloud, processes it against the algorithm, and then after another short pause delivers the results.

Swiping through the results will reveal readings for heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and even things like facial skin age and mental stress levels.

It’s important to note that the company states the performance characteristics of the product have not been established, and its use is currently for “informational purposes only”.

Brennan explained that they are currently in the process of applying for Food and Drug Administration approval in the US, and they are meanwhile selling the platform commercially for “general health, general awareness” purposes.

They currently have around 100 customers around the world, 40 of which are based in Europe.

A French start-up, i-Virtual, recently received EU certification for a medical device that uses the same kind of technology to monitor vital signs with just a 30-second selfie video. ‘Caducy’ measures a patient’s heart rate, respiratory rate and stress level.

I-Virtual says a clinical trial on over 1,000 patients showed 95 per cent accuracy. It told Euronews Next it now hopes to license the tech to teleconsultation and telesurveillance platforms, to provide healthcare professionals with quick insight into their patients’ vital signs.

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