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Camera phones seem to be on a health kick

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Samsung's S Band will work with the new Galaxy S4 smartphone to track calories burned and steps taken, and even how efficiently you've slept. 

Could your smartphone make you healthier? It's a possibility some manufacturers and researchers are exploring. 

Samsung made much ado of the health-related features of its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4, at the launch of the device last week. Samsung's new S-Health 2.0 app will work in conjuction with accessories like a heart rate monitor, Bluetooth scale and the S Band, which tracks calories, steps and distance, and also measure how efficiently you've slept based on your nocturnal movements. 

The Nike+ FuelBand and accompanying app is another option for iPhone users and also tracks your daily activity and calories burned. 

Fujitsu Laboratories Limited is also exploring the healthy applications of smartphone technology. The company just announced that it has developed a way to detect a person's pulse via a smartphone or tablet camera. The technology measures variations in the brightness of a subject's face thought to be caused by the flow of blood and can determine a pulse rate in as little as five seconds. Without being health care experts ourselves, the technology may be a further advancement on already existing tech behind the apps Instant Heart Rate (free for Android) and Cardiio ($2.99 for iOS), which both promise to measure your heart rate by analyzing your skin color with your smartphone's built-in camera.

Fujitsu's technology reads the pulse of a subject by using a smartphone camera.

As we reported recently, scientists are also using smartphone cameras as a diagnostic tool in rural areas. A team working in Tanzania were able to make a portable microscope by attaching a 3mm ball lens to the rear-facing camera lens of an iPhone, creating 50 to 60 times magnification of sample slides pressed against the lens and illuminated with a flashlight. This method has been used to test for hookworm and other soil-transmitted helminth infections in young patients. 

Of course there are also a plethora of apps aimed at fitness and health care, some of which make interesting use of the camera component of your smartphone. CineMama helps women track their pregnancy through a calendar of baby bump photos and create a movie montage of the images to document their belly growth. Fiteo Free! essentially does the same thing, although the idea is to track your diminishing waistline. 

Let's hear from you: How are you using your smartphone to stay healthy? 

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