From next month, Google will introduce features that will allow users to takeheart and respiratory rate measurements using their device’s camera.

The feature will be availablevia the Google Fit app,initially on Google Pixel phones exclusively. The company plans to later expand the features to different Android devices running Android 6 or higher.

Previously, taking these measurements required specialized hardware. However, Google’s Health unit —led by Director of Health Technologies Shwetak Patel— have managed to develop computer vision-based methodsthat it claims can produce results comparable to clinical-grade measurement hardware.

For respiratory rate, the technology relies on a technique known as “optical flow,” which monitors movements in a person’s chest as they breathe and uses that to determine their breathing rate.Clinical validation data indicates the method is accurate to within 1 breath per minute across all participants.

As for heart rate, the company is initially using the camera to detect “subtle color changes” in a user’s fingertip, which provides an indicator about when oxygenated blood flows from their heart through to the rest of their body. Validation datahave shown accuracy within a 2% margin of error, on average.

In a press briefing, Patel said”My team has been working on ways that we can unlock the potential of everyday smart devices. This would include smart devices in the home, or a mobile phone, and how we leverage the sensors that are starting to become more and more ubiquitous within those devices, to support health and wellness.”

“I really think that’s going to be a really important area moving forward given that if you think about health care, the journey just doesn’t end at the hospital, the four walls of the hospital,” he added. “It’s really this continuous journey, as you’re living your daily life, and being able to give you feedback and be able to measure your general wellness is an important thing.” 




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