Here at Medgadget, we feature a lot of really innovative medical devices and technologies, but unfortunately, many of them won’t make it to the market or they’ll cost you your firstborn to purchase. That’s why we dig Cardiio, a new iOS app available now for $4.99.
Simply put, Cardiio measures and tracks your heart rate using just your iPhone. You may have seen and even tried out other apps that claim to do the same thing, but Cardiio is the real thing, backed by research at MIT and developed by engineers and scientists at MIT and Harvard. It’s also one of the newest startups supported by healthcare incubator Rock Health. Cardiio works by measuring the amount of light that is reflected off one’s face, which is imperceptible to human eyes, but detectable with a camera (see our post on Eulerian Video Magnification for further explanation).
We gave Cardiio a test drive this past week to see how well it can track our heart rate. We installed the app on our iPhone 4, although it was recommended that Cardiio be used on a dual-core iOS device such as an iPhone 4s or iPad 2. We also installed it on an iPad 2, although the app isn’t “universal”, so you’ll end up using a pixel-doubled version in full screen.
Launching the app shows a virtual stethoscope. All it takes now is a well-lit room and a steady hand to hold onto your device while Cardiio measures your heart rate. Since Cardiio needs to measure from as much facial skin as possible, it will let you know to move your phone closer to you by displaying a slightly transparent image of yourself in the “reflection” of the stethoscope, which gives it a neat little aesthetic feature. Once the analysis begins, it usually takes between five to 30 seconds, depending on lighting conditions and how stable you’re holding the device. It’s also another nice little touch that Cardiio displays heart-related trivia and random sayings while your heart rate is being measured to help you pass the time.
We used Cardiio to measure our resting heart rate and our heart rate after a 30-minute cardio session at the gym and found it to be very accurate. The results were quite close when we compared them to the measurements from our chest strap pulse monitor, the heart rate monitor on the gym treadmill, and the good ‘ol two-fingers-on-the-carotid-artery method.
Of course, no iOS health and fitness app would be complete without the ability to track your heart rate. Clicking on the “Insight” button at the bottom gives you some useful (and interesting) information about your cardiac health. Swiping across the top half of the screen gives you 7- and 30-day averages of your measurements. The bottom half compares your heart rate with the average person and also correlates your heart rate with your fitness level and the life expectancy of various animals. While we won’t personally alter our lifestyle based on our life expectancy in comparison with a sheep, it is a fun statistic. Perhaps it also could give the most unhealthy person some solace that he or she can still outlive a lowly farm animal.
Overall, we really love Cardiio and its mix of useful information and just plain fun. However, we do think that $4.99 is a little high, so we hope the app will soon add additional features. Cloud support, social media integration, or integration with other devices such as the FitBit would make this app even more useful. Adding a feature that can integrate your heart rate with an exercise and fitness goal would also be helpful, as we don’t see a huge benefit of simply measuring your heart rate randomly throughout the day.
More Information: Cardiio…