Been shopping around for a new smartwatch that can track your vitals? If you have a Pixel phone, you may not need to look anymore because Google has announced via the The Keyword that you’ll soon be able to check those stats using the camera on your Pixel phone. In fact, this update will be hitting the Google Fit app on Pixels as early as next month with plans to eventually expand to other Android devices. According to Google, the new feature will work as follows:
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
The technology uses your phone’s camera to track tiny physical signals such as chest movements or subtle color changes on your fingertips. Google says their clinical studies included people of different skin tones and ages in order to approximate it as much as possible to a real-world application.
This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen a smartphone incorporate a heart rate sensor into its camera bump. The Galaxy S8 and Note 8 – both released in 2017 – incorporated an actual biometric sensor next to the back camera module. This feature only tracked your heart rate and didn’t hang around too long with Samsung nixing it in their follow-up S/Note iterations. Other than that, we have only seen this come to phones via a combo of a wearables and an app; definitely not by using the standard phone camera. I just love it when smartphone features are actually helpful in real people’s lives.
It will be interesting to test this feature out once it goes live. Of course, it goes without saying that you should never treat these readings as a substitute for real medical advice nor as a diagnosis. However, they can prove useful to identify patterns that can be seen as red flags and get you to book that Doctor’s appointment sooner rather than later.