Once the domain of doctors, taking a read on your heart rate now takes just a glimpse at your smartwatch. Soon, your Pixel phone will do the same. A new update to Google Fit, the company's health app, will turn the camera on a Pixel phone into a stethoscope of sorts, getting a quick take on your heart rate and even your respiratory rate.
No, this isn't doctor quality. Your phone won't be able to pick up the sounds of your blood moving through the chambers of your heart, or the crackles your lung may make as oxygen is breathed in either. But the camera will be able to give you a quick beat on some health data that could help you know if you're perhaps stressed, or at least provide some metrics of your well-being. And the camera will work two different ways depending on the details you seek.
The new feature will eventually come to Android devices, said GoogleGoogle
For your heart rate, you'll place your finger right on the camera on the back, over the lens. Do that now — on any camera — and you can see light pushing through. That's actually how your smartwatch works too, in a way. On the Apple Watch, for example, light is pulsed against your wrist which is then read to see the blood flowing through your veins. And Google says it will do this reading by capturing "subtle changes in the color of your fingers for your heart rate," according to its release.
For your respiratory rate, you'll actually aim the camera at your face and chest — you can think of this as a health selfie if that helps. You'll then breathe normally and the app will calculate your breathing rate — or how many breathes you take per minute.
Heart rate can be a helpful metric to know, something that lets you detect how fast your heart is beating. Athletes like that number to be low — a sign that their heart doesn't have to work so fast to deliver oxygenated blood to the body. (A very important part of your overall health.)
But respiratory rate? That's how often we're breathing every minute to pull in oxygen. The Cleveland Clinic says that normal respiration rate is 12 to 20 breaths per minute. And you'll be able to get some sense of that number through this new feature.
Google is being very (very) clear that the new features "...aren't meant for medical diagnosis or to evaluate medical conditions, said Shwetak Patel, Google Health's director of health technology in a statement. Instead, they're meant more for health and wellness monitoring. In other words — your smartphone or smartwatch is not going to replace a trip to your doctor, nor should it.
The new feature is coming first to Pixel phones and then Google plans to add it, eventually, to other Android devices.