Health tech startup uses digital photos to help detect Parkinson's disease

FacePrint, a health technology startup, is developing a web and smartphone-based automated system that aims to identify and monitor signs of Parkinson's disease, according to Wired.

The company is creating a five-minute facial expressions test that is compatible with any device that features a camera, such as a smartphone or laptop. The test will be able to be performed at the physician's office or by an individual in their own home to help determine whether he or she has signs of Parkinson's disease.

FacePrint's facial recognition software is also compatible with social media platforms. The company's founder, Erin Smith, 19, told Wired it would be possible to integrate FacePrint with those systems, however, it would need to be done in an ethical way so users who exhibit signs of Parkinson's disease don't receive a push notification on Facebook alerting them to it.

FacePrint has piloted two studies with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to test its technology. The system analyzes a person's micro-expressions, or tiny movements of the facial muscles that happen too quickly for most people to observe. Ms. Smith first had the idea for the technology after watching videos of Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at 29 years old.

"[Mr. Fox] is a really interesting case study, because you can go back to the films he was in, and create kind of a timeline of when these facial differences started to occur," Ms. Smith said. During her early research on the technology, Ms. Smith used an "off-the-shelf" software package for facial recognition to illustrate the differences between people with and without Parkinson's disease, according to the report.

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