Use of ambient light in remote photoplethysmographic systems: comparison between a high-performance camera and a low-cost webcam

Imaging photoplethysmography (PPG) is able to capture useful physiological data remotely from a wide range of anatomical locations. Recent imaging PPG studies have concentrated on two broad research directions involving either high-performance cameras and or webcam-based systems. However, little has been reported about the difference between these two techniques, particularly in terms of their performance under illumination with ambient light. We explore these two imaging PPG approaches through the simultaneous measurement of the cardiac pulse acquired from the face of 10 male subjects and the spectral characteristics of ambient light. Measurements are made before and after a period of cycling exercise. The physiological pulse waves extracted from both imaging PPG systems using the smoothed pseudo-Wigner-Ville distribution yield functional characteristics comparable to those acquired using gold standard contact PPG sensors. The influence of ambient light intensity on the physiological information is considered, where results reveal an independent relationship between the ambient light intensity and the normalized plethysmographic signals. This provides further support for imaging PPG as a means for practical noncontact physiological assessment with clear applications in several domains, including telemedicine and homecare.