Like many of us, Google is becoming more interested in our health. The company today announces new features that will allow those without portable sensors to read about the airways and heart rate. From next month, Pixel owners will be able to use the phone’s cameras to measure heart rate and breathing rate via Google Fit. The company said it also plans to expand to more Android devices over time.
When the feature becomes available on your phone, you can open the Fit app to take your measurements by tapping the new cards on the website. Google guesses the breathing rate by looking at the movement of the breast, so it must see your upper body. Meanwhile, it uses small changes in color under your skin to calculate your heart rate, and you need to place your finger on the rear camera for this. The Fit app will guide you through how to frame yourself using the front camera for breathing frequencies, and it is not yet clear how well this will work. If you are wearing tough clothes, will the system still be able to tell if you are breathing?
You also need to hold the phone up for about 30 seconds to catch the airway, which is longer than it sounds. In addition, this implementation means that you will not rely on this feature to keep an eye on your heart rate while exercising, unless you plan to hold your phone and look at the screen while running or dancing. Still, it̵
If this method of heart rate recording sounds familiar, you might be thinking of the Samsung Galaxy S5, which had a separate sensor under the camera. But apps that let you use your phone to measure your heart rate have been around since at least 2014, so this is not exactly a new concept. But because Google is the software as it is, it offers some benefits. In addition to conducting initial clinical studies and validations to ensure the accuracy of the products, Google also made an effort to ensure that the computer vision-dependent method works on all skin tones, ages and light conditions.
You will also be able to see your heart rate and breathing measurements along with other statistics in the Fit app. The company has not shared any guidelines for minimum camera specifications to use this feature (which currently makes sense since only Pixel phones are currently supported). But in the end, Google may be able to reach a wider audience than most if it is able to bring this to devices with less sharp cameras or running Android Go, for example.
For those concerned about their privacy, Google performs these calculations on your device, and you can choose to save the resulting measurements on Fit. You can also delete them from your account settings at any time. Keep in mind that these new features have not received FDA approval and were not designed for medical diagnosis or to evaluate medical conditions.