Have you heard about Alphabet’s health watch?

Remember that health-tracking watch Alphabet’s X research division showed off more than a year ago, the one you’re looking at above? No? Well yeah, I get it, you’d want to forget that design of course. But be assured, it’s not sticking around apparently. Now, it looks like the company has ditched that design entirely and will now come with a circular e-paper screen.

Not intended to be just your fancy smartwatch, this Verily watch is designed to be used for medical research and clinical trials, measuring not only your heartbeat but also skin temperature, light exposure, and noise levels. It’s an interesting project from what was known then as Google X Life Sciences. The watch is being developed by Verily, a health company which is also a subsidiary of Alphabet.

Verily Life Sciences, also a division of Alphabet (the parent company of Google), is making a health watch and has reportedly already built “more than hundreds” of working prototypes. MIT Technology Review managed to get a peek at a prototype of what should be “at least” the second generation of the now Verily-made design, and it bears precious little resemblance to the squarish block from 2015. At is heart is a familiar-sounding circular e-paper screen — not as exciting as the OLEDs and LCDs, but vital for a device that you’re supposed to wear as often as possible. The screen uses e-ink which is able to use less electricity ensuring a long battery life.

“If people are going to wear this you can’t charge it every day,” Otis said. “The big push now is low power.” E-ink and e-paper displays are the same technologies being used on Pebble smartwatches, Kindle e-readers and Sony smart bands.

According to Antonio Regalado from MIT Technology Review, who got to see the watch and had a chance to talk Brian Otis, Verily’s chief technical officer, the health watch is now a real, working prototype:

The prototype I saw was set in an ordinary-looking brass-colored analog watch casing that appeared not to have any buttons. Otis called it the “Cardiac and Activity Monitor” and said it was at least the second generation of the device.

Quite logically, it’s loaded with sensors. It includes both an accelerometer and gyroscope to measure movement, which are the same sensors used in the Apple Watch and Fitbit trackers.  There’s an outer ring that measures your electriocardiogram (aka your heart’s electrical rhythm), a heart rate sensor and motion detection. Other sensors on the back may also be used to measure galvanic skin response, which is used to monitor stress levels.

Unlike smartwatches and other health trackers, this device isn’t really for consumers as previously mentioned so you aren’t going to buy this watch yourself.. The health-tracking watch is being built with medical researchers in mind. It’s supposed to be used to monitor patients and potentially predict diseases. Verily is planning to use the device for research projects like a Baseline study which might involve 10,000 to 20,000 people for a large scale testing.

Even though this watch is not for you, or me, its still an exciting development. Smartwatches haven’t done so well as everyone thought. I have never really bought the current wearble gadget scenario anyways. Fitness trackers have made more sense than Smartwatches to me. But that doesn’t mean wearables wouldn’t play an important role in the future. Wearable devices do and will have many implications, especially in preventive care and remote monitoring. How?

Telemedicine – the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology – is already becoming mainstream. Its cheaper, and still quite effective. A simple google search brings forth so many success stories of Telemedicine.  Combine that with wearables and Internet of Things and its poised to have a huge impact on today’s healthcare system.

The Verily watch is a sign that Alphabet is committed to wearable tech that can answer vital medical questions. Pricing and release information on the watch hasn’t been announced. What are your thoughts on Alphabet’s commitment towards improving health care? Even if obviously for profit, its a welcome move wouldn’t you say?

Source : MIT Technology Review

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