Google Fit to measure heart and respiratory rates using phone camera

Andreas Milano

Image: Google

Google has announced from March, Google Fit will allow users to measure their heart and respiratory rates using their phone’s camera.

The feature will be available in the Google Fit app initially for Pixel phones, with plans to expand to more Android devices.

Users who wish to measure their respiratory rate, they just need to place their head and upper torso in view of the front-facing phone camera. To measure heart rate, users place their finger on the rear-facing camera lens.

Once the measurements are taken, users have the choice to save them in the Google Fit app to monitor and track their day-to-day wellness.

Google Health director of health technologies Shwetak Patel explained these features rely on the sensors that have been built into smartphones, such as the microphone, camera, and accelerometer.

“Thanks to increasingly powerful sensors and advances in computer vision, these features let you use your smartphone’s camera to track tiny physical signals at the pixel level — like chest movements to measure your respiratory rate and subtle changes in the color of your fingers for your heart rate,” he said.

In developing of these features, Patel said, both underwent and completed initial clinical trials to validate the algorithm could work “in a variety of real-world conditions and for as many people as possible”.

“Since our heart rate algorithm relies on approximating blood flow from color changes in someone’s fingertip, it has to account for factors such as lighting, skin tone, age and more in order to work for everyone,” he said.

In addition to being able to measure heart and respiratory rates soon, Google Fit also displays a user’s daily goals, weekly goals, heart points, recent workouts, and sleep data on a single screen.

Earlier this year, the tech giant officially completed $2.1 billion its purchase of Fitbit. Not only does it set up a stage for a potential Google smartwatch, but it gives Google ownership of Fitbit’s enterprise health business and a wealth of data assets.

Google assured at the time that its interest in Fitbit “has always been about devices, not data”, and that it remains committed to protecting Fitbit users’ privacy.  

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