Computer science majors Jason Fortunato ’17 and Linnea Sahlberg ’17 are attempting to improve upon expensive biometric technologies this summer through a research project titled Remote Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy. Working under Stephen Harper Kirner Chair of Computer Science Stuart Hirshfield, they're focusing their research on the creation of relatively unintrusive alternatives to Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) equipment, utilizing lasers to operate remotely instead of the common skin-contact reliant systems of traditional equipment.
fNIRS technology is often utilized for neuroimaging, most usually in a medical context to measure oxygen flow to the brain, providing a less-unpleasant alternative to the common electroencephalogram test, or EEG, in many applications.
Fortunato and Sahlberg’s prototype remote fNIRS could potentially further reduce the level of intrusion, as they lack the requirement for skin contact with the intended patient characteristic of current technologies.
“Right now, the only commercial fNIRS available involves attaching probes to the skin,” explains the pair, “We are exploring the practicality of remote fNIRS... and conducting various experiments that stimulate changes in blood flow so that we can collect data and compare the results of the commercial fNIRS to the remote fNIRS.”
One important component of any prototype remote fNIRS will of course be cost.
Fortunato and Sahlberg’s project will also include research into cost-mitigation, primarily as it relates to the cameras required for remote imaging. Evaluating and analyzing any present trade-offs between cost and quality in the choice of camera could prove essential to the potential commercial viability of remote fNIRS.
Both students noted that their initial interest in this project was motivated by the inclusion of a hardware component. “The hardware component was definitely interesting, it’s a side of computer science that shows that it isn’t just sitting at a desk coding, it can be much more,” said Sahlberg. “It’s also kind of shown us how comp-sci can be integrated into other disciplines,” added Fortunato, “the chance to learn some neuroscience through this research has been great.”