Google launches phone feature that measures pulse, respiratory rate using camera

The use of camera technology for medical monitoring has potential applications in prehospital medicine


By Laura French

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Technology company Google has launched a feature that allows users to measure their heart rate and respiratory rate using only the cameras on their smartphones. 

The feature, which is part of the Google Fit app and currently available for Pixel phone users, uses sensors built into smartphone cameras to track precise movements and color changes to measure one's respiratory rate and pulse, respectively, according to a Google news release. Users can measure their respiratory rate by placing their head and upper torso in view of the camera and measure their pulse by placing their finger on the camera lens. 

Google has launched a new feature for the Google Fit app that allows the user to measure their heart rate and respiratory rate using only the camera on their smartphone. The feature will be available first for Pixel phone users.
Google has launched a new feature for the Google Fit app that allows the user to measure their heart rate and respiratory rate using only the camera on their smartphone. The feature will be available first for Pixel phone users. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

"This technology could be incorporated into prehospital medical devices," Greg Friese, EMS1 editorial director, said. "A camera in the ambulance patient care compartment or cardiac monitor could be programmed to measure respiratory rate and pulse detection technology could be built into the patient cot siderails." 

According to Google, initial clinical studies were completed in the development of the Google Fit feature. The feature was first rolled out on Pixel phones on March 8, with plans to expand compatibility with more Android devices. 

Note: This article was first posted on Feb. 5, 2021, and has been updated with new information.

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