Much of the information of breathing is contained within the photoplethysmography (PPG) signal, through changes in venous blood flow, heart rate and stroke volume. We aim to leverage this fact, by employing a novel deep learning framework which is a based on a repurposed convolutional autoencoder. Our model aims to encode all of the relevant respiratory information contained within photoplethysmography waveform, and decode it into a waveform that is similar to a gold standard respiratory reference. The model is employed on two photoplethysmography data sets, namely Capnobase and BIDMC. We show that the model is capable of producing respiratory waveforms that approach the gold standard, while in turn producing state of the art respiratory rate estimates. We also show that when it comes to capturing more advanced respiratory waveform characteristics such as duty cycle, our model is for the most part unsuccessful. A suggested reason for this, in light of a previous study on in-ear PPG, is that the respiratory variations in finger-PPG are far weaker compared with other recording locations. Importantly, our model can perform these waveform estimates in a fraction of a millisecond, giving it the capacity to produce over 6 hours of respiratory waveforms in a single second. Moreover, we attempt to interpret the behaviour of the kernel weights within the model, showing that in part our model intuitively selects different breathing frequencies. The model proposed in this work could help to improve the usefulness of consumer PPG-based wearables for medical applications, where detailed respiratory information is required.
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