According to the latest statistics, every year approximately 2,500 babies die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the U.S. alone, with thousands more falling victim to it around the world. In typical cases, an infant passes away in their sleep, with no apparent explanation. While various theories have been put forward, the exact cause of SIDS is unknown. While not offering an answer to the mystery, two students from Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) are working on a computer system, that could keep more babies from becoming SIDS statistics.
Called "BabyBeat," the system was created by BGU Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences students Tomer Apel and Anava Finesilver. It incorporates a consumer video camera that is hooked up to a home computer, running the BabyBeat software.
The camera monitors the baby's skin tone, watching for a specific change that is imperceptible to the human eye. That change in skin tone is caused by a sudden decrease in heart rate, which is believed to precede SIDS deaths. An algorithm in the software estimates the baby's pulse based on the camera's skin tone information, and recognizes when that pulse dramatically slows down. The computer then sounds an alarm, both waking up the baby, and alerting its parents.
Although it's still in the developmental stage, Apel and Finesilver hope that BabyBeat can ultimately be commercially produced and marketed.