Take a look at your iPhone’s camera. It doesn’t look that special, does it? Sure, it’s great for taking snapshots and documenting your life, but you’d never expect it to keep you healthy, would you?

Thanks to the hard working folks at MIT, that perception should change with the release of Cardiio.

The app turns an iPhone into an accurate, touch-free heart rate monitor and it actually works. Using the phone’s front camera, it analyzes the amount of light reflected off your face then measures the pulse from that. It sounds a little like magic but there’s some clever science behind it.

Every time your heart beats, more blood is pumped into your face which means more light is absorbed and less is reflected away. The app figures things out from that and accurately. It’s as simple as that.

Not convinced? We checked in with Ming-Zher Poh who has been working on the technology since 2009. Ming-Zher started work on contact-free heart rate sensing technology during his Ph.D at MIT. After completing his research and gaining his Ph.D, he decided it’d be a great idea to translate that to the iOS market and help people along the way.

Since January, Ming-Zher and digital health startup incubator Rock Health, have been hard at work on refining the technology and producing a fantastically useful app. Cardiio is the result of that hard work.

The app is immensely user-friendly, with it possible to check your heart rate at any time (providing you’re in a well lit area). A daily dashboard and weekly and monthly summaries ensure you’ll always know your heart rate. Cardiio also reports on how that correlates to your fitness level and, slightly unnervingly, suggests a potential life expectancy based on such figures. Even better, it’s so unobtrusive, unlike many other heart rate monitors.

It’s all too easy to want to bury your head in the sand or simply not consider how something as crucial as your heart is performing. Ming-Zher Poh’s research has gone a huge way to ensuring this doesn’t happen, all for the price of $4.99.

The app is out now. If you want to read more on the research conducted and the science behind it all, check out MIT News Office and Ming-Zher Poh’s page at the Institute.

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