Google researchers recently unveiled a novel study demonstrating how active noise cancellation (ANC) headphones can serve as a means to monitor the wearer’s heart rate, all without the need for additional hardware.

In a paper titled “APG: Audioplethysmography for Cardiac Monitoring with Hearable Devices,” presented at Mobicom 2023, the researchers introduced an innovative in-ear health sensing approach that empowers ANC headphones to track various physiological indicators, such as heart rate, without necessitating extra sensors.

The research also indicates that APG has no adverse impact on battery life, remains unaffected by sealing conditions, is compatible with all skin tones, and can withstand motion artifacts.

The mechanism involves emitting a low-intensity ultrasound wave through the ANC headphones’ speakers and collecting data from the received wave via the built-in microphones. Google explains that the “APG signal is a pulse-like waveform that synchronizes with the heartbeat and provides valuable cardiac insights, including dicrotic notches.”

This comprehensive study, spanning eight months and involving 153 participants, suggests that APG outperforms conventional light-based photoplethysmograms (PPG) and electrocardiograms (ECG) sensors, which typically introduce additional weight, cost, and power consumption.

Google asserts that a straightforward software update can effectively transform any ANC-equipped headphones into a heart rate monitoring device using APG technology, with this functionality seamlessly operating while users engage in various activities like listening to music or exercising.

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