Shawn Dimantha: My Face, My Health

October 20, 2014

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Shawn Dimantha is always looking for easier ways to track his health. He uses a variety of self-tracking tools, but a few months ago he became interested in exploring what he could do given his engineering and health IT background. He was inspired by immersion, an MIT-developed email analysis tool, which helped him understand who he was communicating with, and by Wolfram Alpha’s Facebook analysis tool. Focusing on Facebook and the wealth of image-based data in his profile he asked himself if images could be a window into his health. After reading a research paper on the use of images to predict body mass index he decided to see what he could learn my implementing a similar procedure on his own images.

What Did Shawn Do?

I used photos from my Facebook account to track my health, the reason I did this because I wanted to see how a simple heuristic I used for tracking my health daily could be implemented in the online world given the huge amount of photos that are and have been shared on a daily basis. I notice when I gain or lose weight, am stressed or relaxed from my seeing my face in my mirror. I was partly inspired by the self-photo collages presented on YouTube.

How Did He Do it?

I selected photos of my face from my Facebook account, cropped out my face and used some software and manual tagging to measure the ratio of different fiducial points on my face (eye-eye length, and cheek to cheek length) over time to help serve as a proxy for my health.

What Did He Learn

Facial image data needs to be cleaned and carefully selected. Face shapes are unique and need to be treated as such. Data that is not present is often more telling than what is present. Life events effect my weight and should be put into context; however causation is harder to determine than correlation. By being more conscious of my score and I can change my behavior before things get off track.

Right now I’m turning this into a product at Enfluence.io where I’m focused on using it to help with preventive health.

Tools

Facebook (my own images)
Python / OpenCV

Slides from Shawn’s talk are available here.

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