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Pixels get that fancy new camera-based heart and respiratory rate monitor on Monday


I know that a month feels like a lifetime ago, but do you remember the Google Fit Mobile Vitals features that were announced — you know, the ones that promised heart rate and respiratory monitoring without any extra hardware? The Pixel timed-exclusive Google reminded us was coming during the March Feature Drop? Well, we’re told that the pair of Mobile Vitals features (which work with nothing more than your phone’s existing camera) start rolling out to Pixels on Monday, and we even know what they will look like in action.

The two new features are honestly pretty cool. If you don’t remember the prior explanation, both of these features (which are tied to something called the Mobile Vitals tool) work just using your phone’s camera.

Heart-rate monitoring with the new Mobile Vitals tool. 

In the case of the heart rate monitor, you simply cover the camera with your finger and apply “light pressure” as it’s fully covered. The camera sensor can pick up on subtle color cues (called “pulsatile photoplethysmographic signals“), which are usually too difficult for us to see ourselves. But with those cues, it can track your circulatory system as it pumps away, and report back with a specific heart rate in beats per minute. You can also save that measurement to your heart rate log.

Measuring respiratory rate on the Mobile Vitals tool.

The respiratory rate-tracking feature also uses the camera, but you have to prop it up to give a clear view of your upper torso — Amazon Halo style — so it can see your chest move as you breathe. Based on the movements it sees, it can calculate your respiratory rate in breaths per minute. Again, you can save the measurement to your log if you like.

Both of these measurements can be cues that your health is changing, and while Google is quite clear from the examples above that this doesn’t constitute a medical test or treatment for any condition, now your smartphone can easily measure both without dealing with external hardware.

As you’d expect, everything is processed on-device, too, so you don’t have to worry about videos of you staring down the camera as you breathe circulating around on the internet — unless that’s something you specifically want out there, separately from this.

Again, the features are timed exclusives for Google’s Pixels. Other phones will get them later, Pixels just get them first, though we haven’t been provided with a firm schedule, requirements, or device availability regarding a wider rollout. (And if we hear more, we’ll let you know.) We’re told it’s coming to all supported Pixels, which I assume excludes the Pixel 2 series, since it’s no longer receiving updates.

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