One in four people suffer from mental health issues at some point in their lives at a £94 billion a year cost to the economy.
But a quicker route to diagnosing mental health problems could soon be available on your mobile phone.
Experts at the University of Nottingham have developed technology which uses cameras to spot the changes in physical behaviour caused by conditions ranging from stress through to depression.
Dr Michel Valstar, Dr Anthony Brown and Dr Timur Almaev have developed technology which picks out changes in people’s facial expressions which are caused by mental health conditions.
Now, they have turned that technology into a business, BlueSkeye AI, which is being supported by the University through Nottingham Technology Ventures, which manages the University’s portfolio of spin-out businesses.
BlueSkeye AI blends advanced research into mental health with specialist expertise in computer vision, machine learning and AI. Its team has worked with psychiatrists, specialist nurses and primary care trusts to analyse the common signs of mental health problems and devise monitoring systems which are capable of picking them up.
Michel said: “The idea stems from work that we have been involved with to try to identify and recognise depressive illnesses. One of the physical changes which takes place if people have a mental health issue is motor control, and that can manifest itself in changes in facial expression and tone of voice.
“What we have developed is technology which senses changes from which we can identify all the cues of medical conditions which change your behaviour – a field we call behaviomedics.”
Working with Nottingham Technology Ventures (NTV), BlueSkeye has already identified a number of potential uses for its technology, which is likely to be licensed to partners able to integrate it with their digital healthcare platforms.
It could then be used by sectors like pharmaceuticals to monitor the impact of treatments, and by large employers to help people manage their mental wellbeing.
Michel added: “BlueSkeye AI will put the ability to monitor mental health into the hands of individuals and medical professionals by building an affordable and accessible tool on mobile.”
Dr Andy Naylor, the CEO of NTV, said: “BlueSkeye AI is one of the latest additions to the University’s spin-out portfolio and we believe it has developed an original solution for what is likely to be a very significant market opportunity.
“We are helping the team to identify routes to market and also secure further financial backing. This is a very promising opportunity that has appeal across a number of sectors.”
“Many people will be familiar with the work of Sir Peter Mansfield and his team in developing the technology behind the MRI scanner, and health research remains an important priority for the University.
“Our decision to support BlueSkeye reflects not only a belief that this represents an important opportunity but also the fact that it could help to identify, treat and manage conditions which affect very many people.”
Nottingham Technology Ventures manages the University of Nottingham’s spin-out portfolio and the Nottingham invention Fund It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University and is based in the Ingenuity Centre at the University of Nottingham Innovation Park. www.nottinghamtechventures.com
The University has helped its spin-out companies to secure millions of pounds in funding to develop technologies in fields which range from manufacturing to mental health. It has invested nearly £900,000 during the past year in nine businesses which began life as university research projects.
The investments have helped the University’s spin-out portfolio secure further funding worth £14 million – money which will help them to either commercialise their ideas and bring them to market as viable products or build on an existing market presence.
The financial backing also forms a key part of the University’s wider long-term strategy of supporting the development of technologies that have the capacity to improve the world around us.
As well as managing the University’s portfolio of 20 spin-out companies NTV works in partnership with specialist investment funds such as Mercia Technologies and Foresight Group.
For more information contact Stuart Baird firstname.lastname@example.org