May 23, 2024
Google tracking heart rate with audioplethysmography


Google has revealed a new method known as audioplethysmography (APG), enabling active noise canceling (ANC) headphones and earbuds to detect heart rate through a straightforward software update. The company points out that the ear canal is an excellent location for health monitoring due to the abundant blood vessels in the region. This innovative technology transforms the traditional function of ANC headphones and earbuds by providing users with valuable health data in addition to their primary purpose of noise cancellation. With the integration of APG, users can now effortlessly track their heart rate during workouts or daily activities, making their listening devices multifunctional and more beneficial for promoting a healthy lifestyle.

How does audioplethysmography (APG) work?

APG works by transmitting a low-intensity ultrasound signal from the speakers of the ANC headphones, resulting in echoes captured by built-in feedback microphones. These echoes are affected by skin movement and heartbeat vibrations inside the ear canal. Google’s processing system translates the received data into heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) measurements. This technique remains effective even with music playing or an imperfect earbud seal. Additionally, APG technology allows users to gather critical health information without requiring specialized devices or dedicated fitness wearables. This innovation not only adds value to ANC headphones but also makes tracking one’s heart rate and HRV more convenient and accessible for a wider range of users.

The imperceptible sensing carrier signal does not disrupt the functionality of the headphones and offers a cost-effective health monitoring solution. To address potential complications with body movement, a multi-tone calibration method is employed to identify the ideal frequency for measuring heart rate. By integrating APG into any ANC headphones or earbuds, they can be efficiently transformed into intelligent sensing devices with a simple software update.

Studies on APG’s effectiveness

During two studies involving 153 participants, APG consistently provided precise heart rate and HRV readings. The approach’s accuracy is not affected by factors such as skin tone, ear canal size, or imperfect seals, outperforming conventional methods like photoplethysmograms (PPG) and electrocardiograms (ECG). This breakthrough technology demonstrates significant potential in offering a more inclusive and efficient means to monitor individuals’ heart health. Furthermore, the results of these studies showcase APG’s potential to revolutionize how healthcare professionals track and assess cardiovascular conditions, thereby enhancing patient care and improving overall health outcomes.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Designecologist; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.



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