You can turn your Google smartphone into a heart and respiratory reader to monitor your health - here's how

Friday, 5th February 2021, 9:45 am
Updated Friday, 5th February 2021, 9:57 am
Heart rate can be scanned by placing a finger on the rear-facing camera lens (Photo: Shutterstock)

Google is making it possible for smartphone users to track their health by using the camera on their phone.

A new feature will allow users to measure their heart and respiratory rate simply by using the camera.

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How does it work?

Pixel owners will be able to check their respiratory health by propping up their handset on a stable surface and breathing as normal in front of the camera.

Sensors and advanced computer vision technology will then be able to pick up on tiny physical signals, such as chest movements.

Heart rate can be scanned by placing a finger on the rear-facing camera lens, which can detect subtle changes as blood circulates through the fingertip.

Observing health and wellness

While the new features provide users with information about their health, Google acknowledges that the functions are not sufficient enough to act as a medical diagnosis, nor to evaluate medical conditions.

The features are instead only intended to provide people with a glimpse of their general health and wellness.

Shwetak Patel, director of health technologies at Google Health, said that the idea behind the development is to give people a chance to observe and monitor their health using everyday devices.

He said: “With continued advances in hardware and software, sometimes the device that could be most helpful to your health and wellness is already in your pocket.

“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 colour 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.”

When will the features be available?

Both the heart and respiratory rate measurements will be added to the Google Fit app for Pixel users from next month.

Google said it has plans to expand the features to more Android devices in the future.