The company is taking an alternative approach to the more consumer-oriented fitness wearables that are on the market and aims to provide vital signs data such as pulse, activity level, skin temperature and heartbeat rhythm to medics.
The Google device can also monitor light levels and light exposure. This data could be used to learn more about patient behavior outside of the hospital and better treat ailments, Google said Tuesday. For example, data showing that a person isn't moving around frequently or spending limited time outdoors could indicate illness, Google said.
Health-monitoring is a key attraction of smartwatches running Android Wear as well as the Apple Watch and fitness trackers from companies like Fitbit. However, doctors are reluctant to incorporate these wearables into patient care because the devices' sensors haven't been validated for accuracy. In order to accept wearables, physicians need devices with medical-grade sensors that take precise readings, critics have said.
The search giant's life sciences group, which is part of the Google X research division, developed the wristband, which resembles a smartwatch with a square display with rounded corners attached to a wristband. Google didn't immediately reply to questions about the wearable's battery life and if it runs Android Wear.
Google is working with several research partners on medical studies to determine if receiving a constant stream of data can help doctors better treat disease, said Jacquelyn Miller, a Google spokeswomen. The company didn't provide details on what conditions it is studying.
Gauging the device's usefulness in clinical settings could take several years, Miller said. If the wearable proves beneficial to care givers, Google will look for partners to build the device, she said.
Google's other life sciences projects include a contact lens that can monitor a person's blood sugar levels. The company is also contributing its sensor technology and imaging technology to a robot-assisted surgical platform.
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