Google Fit update turns Pixel phones into mobile heart and respiratory rate monitors

Google Fit update turns Pixel phones into mobile heart and respiratory rate monitors

Update 1 (03/08/2021 @ 03:27 PM ET): Supported Google Pixel phones will get the Mobile Vitals features in the Google Fit app starting today. Click here for more information. The article, as published on February 4, 2021, is preserved below.

Forget your smartwatch: Google is adding a new feature to the Fit app that will allow Pixel phones to measure your heart rate and respiratory health. Google said that these new features take advantage of sensors that are already built into Pixel phones, including the microphone, camera, and accelerometer.

To measure your heart rate, place your finger on the rear-facing camera lens. Meanwhile, to measure your respiratory rate, place your head and upper torso in view of your phone’s front-facing camera and breath as you normally would. Google said these types of measurements are commonly used to assess overall health and wellness.

“Thanks to increasingly powerful sensors and advances in computer vision, these features let you use your smartphone’s camera to track tiny physical signals at the pixel level — like chest movements to measure your respiratory rate and subtle changes in the color of your fingers for your heart rate,” Google said in a blog post.

Google Fit respiratory health

Google said it completed initial clinical studies to validate the new features coming to Google Fit. Internal studies on Pixel phones apparently showed the respiratory rate feature was accurate within one breath per minute, the company said (via The Verge). Meanwhile, the heart rate feature was accurate within 2 percent.

The search giant is warning, however, that these new features aren’t meant to diagnose medical conditions. They’re being introduced in an effort to encourage users to track and improve their day-to-day wellness, and to make more advanced health tools more accessible. Measurements that are made can be saved in the Google Fit app, which will monitor trends over time.

Google isn’t the first company to introduce heart rate monitoring support using a device’s camera. Last year, Xiaomi introduced a similar feature to its Mi Health app. While these features aren’t quite as helpful as a wearable device, which can continuously monitor your health, taking more regular measurements is better than no measurements at all.

The new features are coming to the Google Fit app on Pixel phones starting next month, with wider support for more Android devices soon.

Google Fit: Activity Tracking
Google Fit: Activity Tracking

Update 1: Mobile Vitals feature rolls out in Google Fit app for Pixel phones

Google confirmed to AndroidPolice that the Mobile Vitals feature will roll out to all supported Pixel phones starting today. The feature uses the camera on your Pixel phone to measure your heart or respiratory rate. You can watch the video embedded below for a tutorial on how to use the new features once it rolls out for your Pixel device. The features are timed exclusives for supported Pixel phones but will come to other devices later. While Google hasn’t confirmed exactly which Pixel phones will support Mobile Vitals, we can assume that the Pixel 2 and OG Pixel are excluded since both generations have already reached end-of-life status.

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Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.