Like many of us, Google is increasingly interested in in our health. The company is announcing new features today that will allow those without wearable sensors to read their respiratory and heart rate. Starting next month, Pixel owners be able to use their phone’s cameras to measure their pulse and breathing via Google Fit. The company also announced 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 on new cards on the home page. Google guesses your breathing rate by looking at the movement of your chest, so it will need to see your torso. Meanwhile, it uses tiny color changes under your skin to calculate your heart rate, and you’ll need to place your finger on the rear camera for that. The Fit app will walk you through how to frame yourself using the front camera for respiratory rates, and it’s not yet clear if that will work. If you are wearing loose clothing, will the system still be able to tell if you are breathing?
You’ll also need to hold your phone for about 30 seconds to get it to pick up your respiratory rate, which is longer than it looks. Additionally, this implementation also means that you don’t rely on this feature to keep an eye on your heart rate while you work out, unless you plan to continue holding your phone and staring at the screen while you run. or dance. Still, it’s fine for people without fitness trackers to have a way to get those measurements when they want.
If this method of heart rate detection sounds familiar to you, you may be thinking about Samsung’s Galaxy S5, which had a separate sensor under the camera. But applications that allows you to use your phone to measure your pulse from at least 2014, so it’s not exactly a new concept. But because Google is the software titan that it is, it does offer some advantages. In addition to completing the initial clinical trials and validations to ensure the accuracy of its products, Google has also gone to great lengths to ensure that its computer vision-based method will work on all skin tones, all ages. and all lighting conditions.
You will also be able to view your pulse and breathing measurements as well as your other stats in the Fit app. The company hasn’t shared any guidelines on minimum camera specs for using this feature (which for now makes sense since only Pixel phones are supported at this time). But eventually, Google may be able to reach a larger audience than most if it is able to deliver it to devices with less sharp cameras or running Android Go, for example.
For those who are concerned about their privacy, Google performs these calculations on the device and you can choose to save the resulting measurements in Fit. You can also delete them at any time in your account settings. Keep in mind that these new features have not received FDA clearance and were not intended for medical diagnosis or to assess any medical conditions.