Here’s a fun way to spend 60 seconds. New iphone app Cardiio, measures your heart rate just by looking at your face. Now at first I thought ‘yeh, right – course it does’ – but then I read that it came from the team at MIT Media Lab (a bunch of seriously intelligent people) and got interested. Theory is, that as your heart pumps and blood reaches your face the amount of light your skin reflects slightly changes – this uses the camera on your phone to measure that change.
I tried it and came out at 64bpm. The team behind Cardiio claim it’s accurate within 3bpm of measurements with a clinical pulse oximeter – I don’t have one of those (I don’t even know what one of those is) so I couldn’t check that statement – but I do have two fingers and a wrist and it correlated with the measurement I came up with doing the ‘count your pulse for 10 seconds and times that by six’ test.
It also means I measure up as ‘excellent’ for my age on the resting heart rate charts – cue a little smug face for a few seconds. Of course a superfit – athlete – heart rate is under 60 so now I want to get there.
Now one thing though did intrigue me about Cardiio – as you’re staring at the screen random phrases appear like ‘sprinkling raven feathers’. Is this some kind of trick? Does it say something about your health if you respond to phrases with the word feather in them? I plucked up all my journalistic courage and emailed the team at MIT – I hate emailing scientists potentially daft questions, but I figure that if you no-one said ‘I wonder if……’ we’d all still be living in caves. I was pleasantly surprised when creator Ming-Zehr Poh emailed back within the hour (maybe I’m not an idiot after all) to say, ‘the random phrases are meant to entertain, engage and educate users as their heart rate is being computed. Health tracking is typically boring and viewed as a chore, we just wanted to improve the experience and make it fun.’ So, now you know, they aren’t trying to psyche you out – you can read the phrases without skewering your score. Now my next job is to get my BPM under 60 – more intervals are needed I believe.