Today, Google announced that it’s adding AI-powered measurements of heart and respiration rates to the Google Fit app.
The tech uses a combination of sensors and computer vision algorithms to take measurements through a smartphone camera.
The Big G said the features would be available next month on Pixel phones, with more Android devices to follow.
Users will then measure their breathing rate by placing their head, and upper torso gave the phone’s front-facing camera.
Their heart rate 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.
Shwetak Patel, director of health technologies at Google Health, compared the approach to a fingertip pulse 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.”
Patel said 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.
Early study results shared at a Google Health event today showed the respiration algorithm is accurate within one breath per minute on average. In contrast, the heart rate algorithm is accurate within 2% on average.
Google stressed that the tool is designed for personal wellbeing rather than medical use.
“While the sensor outputs are not medical diagnoses, they’re still useful measures of fitness and health,” said Patel, who’s also a computer science professor at the University of Washington. “So after you go for a run, you can quickly use the app to be able to look at what your heart rate is.”