In an announcement earlier this week, Google claimed that the Google Fit app for Pixel phones will begin showing data related to a user’s heart and the respiratory rate which will effectively help keep tabs on health and wellness.
According to the announcement, the new technology uses a smartphone camera and a computer vision technique called optical flow to detect respiratory rate via subtle movements in the chest for measuring respiratory rate. For the heart rate, it uses a smartphone camera to detect subtle color changes in the fingertip that happen when freshly oxygenated blood flows from your heart through your body. The process used to detect heart rate is called photoplethysmography (PPG), which usually is picked up using specialized sensors.
“Google Fit will allow you to measure your heart rate and respiratory rate using just your phone’s camera. These features will be available in the Google Fit app for Pixel phones, with plans to expand to more Android devices. Starting next month, Google Fit will allow you to measure your heart rate and respiratory rate using just your phone’s camera. These features will be available in the Google Fit app for Pixel phones, with plans to expand to more Android devices” said Shwetak Patel, director of Health Technologies, Google Health.
He added that “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. To measure your heart rate, simply place your finger on the rear-facing camera lens.”
“We developed both features — and completed initial clinical studies to validate them — so they work in a variety of real-world conditions and for as many people as possible. For example, since our heart rate algorithm relies on approximating blood flow from color changes in someone’s fingertip, it has to account for factors such as lighting, skin tone, age, and more in order to work for everyone,” Patel said.
Once the measurements are made, one can choose to save them in the app to monitor trends over time, alongside other health and wellness information.