Family healthcare reimagined

The Team

Henry Huang, master’s student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, supervisor Dr. Elham Dolatabadi, assistant professor at U of T’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and Shiphrah Biomedical Inc.

The Challenge

The lack of commercial products to accurately monitor and quantify maternal sleep positions during the third trimester of pregnancy in a non-invasive and objective manner can have profound implications for pregnancy outcomes and the well-being of pregnant individuals.

The Solution

Develop a computer vision-based method utilizing artificial intelligence to accurately and non-invasively detect and quantify maternal sleeping positions in a home setting.

The Outcome

Researchers and clinicians will have a reliable tool to better understand the correlation between sleep positions and adverse pregnancy outcomes, and later be able to reduce physical, psychological, and economic burdens.

Henry Huang, a master’s student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, contributes to the development of groundbreaking computer vision technology for accurate and non-invasive monitoring of maternal sleep positions

Leveraging computer vision and artificial intelligence for the improvement of pregnancy outcomes

Henry Huang, a Master of Biomedical Engineering student at the University of Toronto, made significant strides in improving maternal healthcare during his participation in the Mitacs Accelerate program.  

Partnering with Shiphrah Biomedical Inc., a medical technology organization, Huang worked on a groundbreaking project that aimed to leverage computer vision technology for the accurate, unobtrusive, non-invasive, and objective measurement of maternal sleeping positions during the third trimester of pregnancy in a home setting. 

Sleep disorders during pregnancy are often underdiagnosed and undertreated, leading to potential complications. Studies have highlighted the impact of sleep postures, particularly the supine position, on adverse pregnancy outcomes such as stillbirth and low birth weight. However, the lack of commercial products to monitor maternal sleep positions posed a significant challenge.  

“By developing a computer vision-based solution, we aim to provide researchers and clinicians with a reliable method to quantify the cumulative ‘dose’ of supine sleep throughout the third trimester, leading to a better understanding of its correlation with adverse pregnancy outcomes,” said Huang, emphasizing the potential impact of his research. 

Innovation in research makes technology commercially viable 

Huang and his team performed system construction (e.g., position, characterization, inputs, and outputs) on existing infrared video recordings of sleep studies conducted by Shiphrah Biomedical’s Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Allan Kember and colleagues. They extracted images containing various sleeping positions of 45 pregnant participants from May 2021 to September 2021 and labelled them to form the training basis for classification models.  

Leveraging convolutional neural networks (CNNs) as the backbone of the image classification algorithm, the team then validated the models using a prospective image dataset collected from 20 healthy pregnant individuals all in their third trimester. 

The outcomes of Huang’s research hold significant promise for the innovation of the medical technology sector. Shiphrah Biomedical will leverage the research data and results to develop a commercial product that utilizes artificial intelligence for unobtrusive and non-invasive detection of maternal sleep positions. This technology will not only benefit researchers and healthcare providers in Canada, but it will also potentially have a global impact, improving the well-being of pregnant individuals and reducing the physical, psychological, and economic burdens caused by adverse pregnancy outcomes. 

“Mitacs played a vital role in our project’s success by providing the necessary support and resources. Their assistance enabled us to streamline the data collection process and ensure efficient study execution,” expressed Huang. “Without Mitacs’s generous support, completing this study in a timely manner and obtaining quality results would have been challenging.” 

Intersectional experiences help remove barriers 

As a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, Huang’s unique perspective has influenced his research choices. He has a deep passion for removing barriers to quality healthcare and making it more accessible.  

His experience of struggling to find appropriate healthcare information has fuelled his commitment to projects that positively impact the lives of marginalized groups. Through his research on pregnancy experiences, Huang aims to address the lack of adequate social and scientific resources available to them. 

To ensure that the interventions or solutions proposed effectively address the specific needs of marginalized groups, the team implemented measures to account for intersectional experiences. Recognizing that certain communities might lack access to cameras or phones, essential elements for participation, they provided these resources to ensure inclusivity.  

They conducted intensive interviews to understand and address participants’ specific needs prior to the start of the study, and participants had the freedom to discontinue or withdraw at any time. Additionally, live calls were conducted during each step to address concerns in real time. 

Huang’s project is at the forefront of revolutionizing family healthcare. By developing innovative technologies and methodologies, he is paving the way for a future where accurate monitoring of maternal sleep positions becomes the norm, ultimately leading to improved outcomes for pregnant individuals and their families. 

Mitacs’s programs receive funding from multiple partners across Canada. We thank the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon for supporting us to empower Canadian innovation. 

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities:

Mitacs Team
Mitacs Team

Mitacs’s website content is created by people throughout our organization, united in their passion for innovation and eager to share their perspectives with others in the innovation ecosystem.