Google announced on Thursday that it’s adding new AI-powered heart and respiratory monitors on the Google Fit app.
That means now, with your smartphone, you can track your heart rate and breathing. How you ask, well, the technology uses a combination of sensors and computer vision algorithms to take measurements through a smartphone camera.
The multinational company said the exclusive feature would be available on Pixel phones from next month and eventually more android devices.
How is it going to work?
The users will be able to measure their breathing and heart rate by placing their face and upper body exactly in the front camera’s frame. Based on the rise and fall movement of the chest, the AI will detect the respiratory rate, much like how a doctor figures it out. As for the heart rate, it will be estimated by putting the finger on the rear-facing lens. Users can then choose to save the results in the app to monitor how they change over time. Or to track their progress while exercising.
However, Google does not claim it for medical or clinical use. Rather it can be used as a tool for general well-being.
Shwetak Patel, director of health technologies at google Heath, explained that the algorithms had been tested on people with a diverse range of ages, genders, skin colors, health status, and under a variety of lighting conditions. He went on further to compare this feature with the fingertip oximeter.
“The way this works is that as the heart is beating, the amount of blood getting to the fingertip changes, and it’s related to your heartbeat. But recent advances in mobile phone cameras and computer vision algorithms allow us to see even the most imperceptible movements and color changes that happen on the human body. So instead of just looking at the fingertip, you can look at the face and detect that small change in color that tells you what your heart rate is. Similarly, the small movements related to your breathing can also be detected with these algorithms.” said he.
The data collected, however, will be less comprehensive than the ones you get from a wearable device, obviously as you won’t be constantly monitoring the measurements.
Jack Po, a product manager at Google Health, clarified in a press briefing, “But an at-home feature that can check in on these metrics on demand is still a useful tool. Anything that increases the number of measurements someone has of their heart or breathing rate is important — doctors, for example, usually only get a measurement at most every few months as someone comes into an office.”
Results from the internal study revealed that the respiratory rate feature was accurate within one breath per minute both for people with and without health conditions. Meanwhile, the heart rate feature was accurate within 2 percent.
The decision to inculcate such a feature into smartphones was mainly taken so that it is accessible to the larger population. “A lot of people, especially in disadvantaged economic classes right now, don’t have things like wearables, but would still really benefit from the ability to be able to track their breathing rate, heart rate, et cetera.” Po said.