Cardiio:The App That Measures Your Heart Rate

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.

cardiio screen shot

Not my actual measurement

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.


  1. Lu

    Do you know if there’s an Android version? I had a quick look but couldn’t see one!

    1. healthehelen

      Doesn’t seem to be – there is an android app that uses your finger to measure pulse, but I don’t know what it’s called.

  2. Karen

    Juliana’s school had a movie fundraiser the other night. I went with a friend who is stick thin, I can’t believe she had an App on her phone that told her how many calories were in the TimTam biscuit included in our goodie bag. She had the cheek to ask me if I wanted to know how many calories were in my Choc top Vanilla ice-cream

    1. healthehelen

      I was in a restaurant last night trying to google how many calories were in the starter options.Although this comment is pre-empting today’s post so I shall say no more!

      Reply this thing on? Talk to me, it's lonely down here

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