Zeev Zalevsky: Medicine, Bond Style

March 28, 2013, 20:00 lecture


Digital October’s Knowledge Stream project continued at the center, featuring a web-lecture with international expert in the area of optical physics Zeev Zalevsky. He was in his motherland for the second time; the first when he traveled to Russia in 2006 for a conference, taking time to walk around Moscow, and the second virtually on March 28, 2013.

It is not a widely known fact that one of the creators of Kinect was born in 1971 in St. Petersburg, moving with his parents to Israel during his childhood. He studied there as an engineer and today holds 50 patents, among which, besides the game controller from Microsoft, is another commercially successful creation based on photon sensors. That is the Opto-Phone, a device that helps conduct unobtrusive medical examinations.

“I was taught that there are three categories of scientists: theoreticians, who understand everything, but don’t experiment in order to understand “how”; more practical ones, who understand how, but not “why”; and a certain kind right in the middle — engineers, like me.”

“Today I will tell you how a team of engineers taught electronics how to listen with the help of light.

You will be surprised to hear this, but the basic technology already existed 30-40 years ago.

Wiretapping equipment had already appeared, working like this: you’re sitting in a room and an agent using a special device illuminates your voice using glass. These vibrations, along with a ray of light, are transmitted back, where a converter restores the voice.”

“This contraption was called an interferometer. However, it had a few crucial disadvantages. To begin with, it needed continual tuning and for eavesdropping the equipment had to be on level with the height at which the conversation was occurring. Of course, people don’t always choose rooms with windows to have their conversations in, if they do it indoors at all. Finally, the interferometer was overly sensitive to background noise, and if more than one person was talking at the same time nothing could be understood.”

“So we were given the goal of perfecting this equipment. We decided that it would be silly to have to adapt to a different situation every time and figured out how to transmit the light to the surface in advance. First, that increased the accuracy and distance at which the equipment could operate, and second, we transformed the entire system into a compact set of camera and laser. Most importantly, we noticed, our model recorded not only voices, but also captured the smallest details: for example, skin tremors around veins and arteries.”

“That is, we learned how to capture movements down to the nanosecond. That meant we could learn how to record the rhythm of the heart, breath rate, etc.

“Did you know that every person’s heart rate is different, like a signature?

In other words, any of you could be identified by your heart rate. Having grasped the possibility in theory I experimented with students: I stood in the middle of a noisy construction site while they tried to find my heart beat from 80 meters away. It worked.”

“We then moved on, trying to calibrate the apparatus to capture other biometric parameters. We decided that we wanted to try to find the concentration of different substances in the blood remotely, without contact. All the students loved this experiment: we let them go on a drinking binge in order to find their blood alcohol level.”

“Understand that this isn’t scientific fantasy; it’s a fact that drinking changes your blood thickness.

This means that the skin around your veins and arteries will behave differently. We had quite a few willing test subjects and you may not believe this, but measuring blood alcohol content by the usual ‘Please breathe into the tube’ turned out to be much less accurate than our remote laser analysis.”

“Then we wanted to learn how to noninvasively measure blood glucose levels, in other words without drawing blood. We ran a number of medical experiments and compared the results gleaned by means of a glucometer and those of our equipment. The results from each method were identical.”

“We targeted one more area where patients have to go through an uncomfortable examination: eye pressure checks, something that reveals the early stages of glaucoma. We carried out a pre-clinical trial on rabbits and found that we were able to able to measure the pressure of liquid in the eye and get the same result as by mechanically pressing on the eye.”

“After learning how to measure pressure, we began comparing pulse indicators received by our equipment and those found with a tonometer; again, a match. Then we developed a wrist band: a bracelet imbedded with a microchip that is incidentally very cheap. This device is great for outpatient recoveries and for people simply looking to analyze their exercise statistics.”

“The chip requires calibration specific to every person, and should only be acquired from a doctor. On the other hand, afterwards all you have to do is take it home and it will capture all your vital signs, sending them to a remote server as required.”

Our technology can even be installed on an iPhone, something we’re working on right now.”


571 show Sergey
moderator, host of scientific TV-program, NTV
573 show Sergey
CEO, Russian Mobile Health
100000000000000314696631 show Oleg
PhD in Medical Sciences, professor, Head of the Department of Pharmacology of the Moscow State University
572 show Valery
PhD in Physical and Mathematical Sciences, professor, Head of the Department of Optics and Biophotonics, SSU
575 show Alexander
Professor, PhD in Medicine, Head of the Department of Clinical Endocrinology, MRRCI n.a. M.F. Vladimirsky
574 show Dmitry
PhD in Technical Sciences, Head of Physical and Mathematical Research Laboratory, MRRCI n.a. M.F. Vladimirsky

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