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Google is working on a way you can learn your heart and breathing rates simply by using your phone’s camera.
The approach may sound strange and prone to producing inaccuracies. But the company says it’s come up with the technology to pull it off through the Google Fit app.
According to Google, many of the latest smartphones have cameras capable of recording subtle signs of movements in someone’s body or over the skin. This same data can be fed into the company’s computer algorithms, which can approximate someone’s heart rate or breathing pattern.
To measure the heart rate, a user needs only place a finger over their smartphone’s camera. Google’s computer algorithms will then analyze the images for color changes in the person’s fingertip to estimate blood flow.
“To measure your respiratory rate, you just need to place your head and upper torso in view of your phone’s front-facing camera and breathe normally,” the company said. The Google Fit app will then scan your body to estimate how many breaths you’re taking per minute.
“While these measurements aren’t meant for medical diagnosis or to evaluate medical conditions, we hope they can be useful for people using the Google Fit app to track and improve day-to-day wellness,” the company wrote.
In other words, don’t expect a completely accurate count. Nevertheless, Google says it’s tested the monitoring features in clinical studies, and found they work in real-world conditions on people with different skin colors and at varying ages. In the case of the respiratory rate, Google’s algorithm has been tested to be accurate within one beat per minute. For heart rate, the accuracy is within 2%.
The heartbeat and breathing rate monitoring is first arriving next month to the company’s Pixel smartphones through the Google Fit app. The measurements can then be saved in the app, if the user so chooses.
Google also plans on rolling out the feature to more Android devices in the future. In the meantime, you can find similar camera-based heart rate tracking in other apps, such as Heart Rate Monitor and Instant Heart Rate.
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