Users of Pixel, Google’s phone brand, will soon be able to measure their respiratory and heart rates through their smartphone’s camera, the tech giant said on Wednesday.
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Without the need for medical equipment or connected watches, users will have access to this information in the Google Fit wellness application, from March, thanks to a maneuver as simple as a selfie.
“We want to reveal the potential of the connected devices that we use every day,” Shwetak Patel, a director of the group’s health arm, explained during a press conference.
“With artificial intelligence, the capabilities of these devices are multiplied,” he continued. “And the most common is the smart phone, with all its sensors”.
Google engineers have developed a technique known as “machine learning”. Users will just need to open their Google Fit app and the camera will detect slight movements of the chest raising and lowering to measure respiratory rate.
For heart rate, they used the imperceptible changes in skin color that occur when freshly oxygenated blood flows from the heart to the rest of the body.
Users will place their fingertips on the lens of their phone, the flash will activate and the application will render its verdict on the number of heartbeats per minute.
“We took a wide variety of skin colors into account in our study,” said Jiening Zhan, engineer at Google Health. “Even though our technology is designed for welfare purposes, its margins of error are within the same range as those of equipment approved by the FDA,” the US drug agency.
These new tools are due to arrive on Android phones (Google’s mobile operating system) in the coming months.
Google clarified that the data would be processed directly on the smartphone, without going through its servers, unless the user wishes to keep them in memory.
The group did not specify its intentions in terms of future monetization or possible partnerships with other brands of products related to well-being, for example.
Many connected accessories, such as Fitbit watches (bought by Google) or those from Apple, can already measure this kind of bodily function.