Google Health includes the various teams at Google that work to help people “live their healthiest lives.” The latest effort lets you measure your heart rate and breathing rate using the Google Fit app and the cameras on an Android phone.
To measure the number of breaths you take per minute, Google Fit uses the Android device’s front-facing camera. The phone must be supported on a “stable surface so that you can comfortably see yourself from the waist up.” It must have a clear, unobstructed view of the head and upper body.
Users are then taken to a full-screen user interface with a live feed that marks the face and chest, while the instructions above tell you to breathe normally and “Hold still”
Google measures the airways by detecting small changes in the chest. The company is showing advances in computer vision that make it possible to “track small 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 required, but it can be activated to increase accuracy in dark environments. Once completed, users must manually decide if they want to save Fit’s vitality. Both of these measurements take 30 seconds, and users are advised to wait a few minutes after doing something active. Neither requires an internet connection to work.
Google tracks “subtle changes in the color of your fingers” to approximate blood flow. The pulse algorithms stand for lighting, skin color, 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 envisions Fit’s camera support metrics as a useful way to “track and improve your daily well-being.” The company has completed initial clinical trials to validate these features. It will start rolling out next month to Pixel owners who have the Fit app installed. Google plans to bring these features to other Android devices in the future.
The announcement comes ahead of a Google Health event – aptly named “The Checkup” – which starts in an hour. This feature for measuring Google Fit cameras is one of the group’s most important consumer-facing developments since the launch of the Google Health Studies app late last year.
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