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This Android app can measure your heart rate using your phone’s camera

Given the current global pandemic, a great emphasis is placed on personal health. Knowing your heart rate is a great way to keep track of blood circulation and oxygen levels. Especially with COVID-19, having enough oxygen in your blood is critical to your brain’s functions.

Several devices can do that for you, like the Apple Watch and Samsung’s Gear S3 Frontier. Those watches naturally sit on your wrist and measure your heart rate through a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor. Tap or click here to find out how to monitor your health with Apple Watch.

Google is taking that functionality one step further. It’s releasing a new smartphone model soon that will be able to monitor your heart rate using only the phone’s camera. Let’s take a look at how it works and what you can expect.

Here is how it works

Google announced that starting in March, you will be able to use Google Fit to measure your heart and respiratory rates with just your phone’s camera. Pixel phones will be the first to receive the feature through the Google Fit app, but it will be added to more devices later.

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How does a smartphone measure your heart and respiratory rate if it doesn’t have an ECG built-in? Google isn’t going to let that secret slip but explained it has to do with the sensors and computer vision advances.

To measure your respiratory rate, position your head and upper torso in view of your phone’s front-facing camera and breathe normally. To measure your heart rate, place your finger on the rear-facing camera lens.

Android Google Fit

Your smartphone’s camera can track tiny physical signals down to incredible detail, like small changes in your chest movement. The software can also detect subtle changes in your finger’s color and deduce a heart rate from that.

“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 color 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,” Google explained.

It’s not a substitute for medical advice

Having the technology in your pocket can be a great advantage. But it should never be a substitute for professional medical advice. Even Google cautioned that it isn’t meant for medical diagnosis or to check medical conditions.

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But as COVID-19 is still spreading, the respiratory monitor is especially useful. It shouldn’t replace an oximeter, but it would be able to give you an accurate estimation.

Pairing it with Google Fit, you can save previous heart and breathing rates and use it to improve your overall health. Set up goals and targets to monitor your progress over time, and with some added tools, Google Fit can help you stay on track. As mentioned, the functionality will first roll out to Pixel phones and other Android models later.

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