Google to launch 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 plans to launch a feature next month that will allow users to measure their heart rate and respiratory rate using only the cameras on their smartphones. 

The feature, which will be part of the Google Fit app, 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 plans to launch 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 plans to launch 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 have been completed in the development of the upcoming Google Fit feature. The feature will be available first to Pixel phone users, with plans to expand compatibility with more Android devices. 

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