September 8, 2014

A new project called “BioGlass,” comprised of researchers from MIT’s Media Lab and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Computing, is an effort to use Google Glass to measure both heart rate and breathing rate, using the available sensors that come with each Glass unit.The team built an (Android) app, and using data captured from the accelerometer, gyroscope and front-facing camera, were able to extract the information needed to determine the biometrics. Participants stood, sat, lay motionless and rode an exercise bike to gather the data.

“In a study of 12 people, researchers were able to estimate heart and breathing rates nearly as accurately as they could with FDA-approved sensors for tracking the same signals,” said team member Javier Hernandez. “The results for heart-rate estimation were off by less than a beat per minute and respiration by less than a breath per minute.”

There is a video available on the BioGlass website that explains, in detail, how the team uses the gyroscope and accelerometer do detect heart and breathing rate. It also explains how Glass could be used to send an alert or play calming music when stress is detected.

“BioGlass uses the Glass sensors and camera to track the wearer’s ballistocardiogram, or BCG, which is a mechanical signal measuring the tiny body movements that result from the heart pumping blood.”

Of course, there are some difficulties to overcome. For example, the current $1500 price point of Google Glass does not make it a viable candidate for the average person to use as a fitness device. Additionally, the team also needs to continue with testing, to verify that bigger motions, such as walking, will be measured with accuracy.

However, this seems like a great benefit to current Google Glass users. Imagine being at your desk at work, when Glass detects high stress levels, based on accelerated breathing and heart rate. Your Glass could send you a message, play calming music, or provide alternatives for you to calm down and lower your anxiety. “You’re getting really worked up — take a few deep breathes to calm down!”

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