Google Health encompasses the various teams at Google working on helping people “live their healthiest life.” The latest effort lets you measure your heart and respiratory rate using the Google Fit app and cameras on an Android phone.
To measure the number of breaths you take per minute, Google Fit is using your Android device’s front-facing camera. The phone needs to be leaned on a “stable surface so that you can comfortably see yourself from the waist up.” It needs to have a clear, unobstructed view of your head and upper torso.
Users are then taken to a fullscreen UI with a live feed marking your face and chest, while instructions above tell you to breathe normally and “Hold still” as a circular indicator notes progress. Once complete, “Your results” appear on the next screen, with the recently revamped Google Fit Home feed featuring a new card that shows average RPM over the course of the past week. A ‘plus’ button in the top-right corner lets you start another session.
Google is measuring your respiratory rate by detecting small changes on your chest. The company touts advances in computer vision that make it possible to “track tiny physical signals at the pixel level.”
Meanwhile, measuring heart rate involves placing your finger on the rear-facing camera lens and applying light pressure. Flash is not needed, but it can be enabled to increase accuracy in dark environments. Once complete, users have to manually decide whether to save the vitals to Fit. Both these measurements take 30 seconds, with users advised to wait a few minutes after doing anything active. Neither requires an internet connection to work.
Google is tracking the “subtle changes in the color of your fingers” to approximate blood flow. The heart rate algorithms account for lighting, skin tone, age, and other factors. The Fit app explicitly tells users that:
“These results are not intended for medical purposes and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition.”
That said, Google imagines Fit’s camera-backed measurements as a useful way to “track and improve day-to-day wellness.” The company has completed initial clinical studies to validate these features. It will start rolling out next month to Pixel owners that have the Fit app installed. Google plans to bring these capabilities to other Android devices in the future.
The announcement comes ahead of a Google Health event — appropriately named “The Checkup” — that starts in an hour. This Google Fit camera measuring feature is one of the group’s most significant consumer-facing developments after the launch of the Google Health Studies app late last year.
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