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September 17, 2021
🚀 Hi there! SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission splashes down off the Florida coast tomorrow.
Blood pressure
Amazfit Bip U Blood Oxygen Tracking
Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

Adding blood pressure measurements from a smartwatch or other fitness wearable device is something that could well improve lives.

  • Just the other day a friend said her fairly fit and healthy boyfriend didn’t know he had astronomically high blood pressure, and now has to reconstruct his life for his health.
  • If his everyday wearable tipped him off earlier, it might’ve been helpful.

The problem? Getting reliable blood pressure results from smartwatches. It’s good enough for South Korea right now, but the US Food and Drug Administration still hasn’t approved it.

The Verge’s Nicole Wetsman has some really good material on why that is, with insights from researchers and doctors :

  • “‘We’re not ready for primetime yet,’ says Jordana Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania who studies hypertension.”
  • Right now, there’s only one wearable device cleared by the Food and Drug Administration to measure blood pressure: a device from medical equipment company Omron.
  • “Omron’s HeartGuide is extremely specialized. It’s even marketed as ‘a wearable blood pressure monitor in the innovative form of a wristwatch.’” It does the normal squeeze approach you might’ve had via a doctor or nurse to measure blood pressure.

Devices from Samsung and Fitbit and so on use light sensors, but the FDA is examining them still:

  • Samsung’s approach is based on a measure called pulse transit time, which is the time between the contraction of the heart and when the pulse arrives at a particular body part, like the wrist. It’s correlated with blood pressure. “The faster that pulse transit time is, the more the vessels are tightening — that’s what’s making the pulse travel faster,” Mendes says. Optical sensors also check if vessels are tightening or widening. An algorithm then uses those two bits of information, along with heart rate, to estimate blood pressure.
  • Fitbit is a few steps further back in the process — it doesn’t have any blood pressure features available but has a handful of studies underway looking at the relationship between the metrics already collected by its devices and blood pressure.
  • Limitations are that they can only reliably measure relative blood pressure. The devices need calibration to find out a true number to tell rising and falling blood pressures to some “raw number,” not just the number at the time.
  • Fitbit’s Eric Friedman, vice president of research, says it’s going to be Herculean to solve: “There have been whole books written around why this is an impossible thing to solve,” he says. “I don’t have the hubris to view it as something that’s coming out any day now.”

Why does it matter so much? Why can Tesla’s drive with beta software whereas blood pressure insights are so protected?

  • “High blood pressure is such a major risk factor for stroke, major cardiac events, and kidney disease,” says Jordana Cohen. “It’s so, so important that we get it right, because if devices are giving you an inaccurate reading, you can get very false reassurance that your blood pressure is normal.”
Roundup

🛍️ Real-life Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are in the window of NYC Google Store (Android Authority). 

📉 Oppo/OnePlus merger is getting more real by the day: Oppo is shedding 20% of its staff in China (Android Authority). 

📸 Samsung could be bringing its 108MP camera to the Galaxy A series. A few weeks ago it was also rumored that Samsung would bring OIS to its A series, too, but proof will be when we see it… (Android Authority).

📺 Google could soon introduce free TV channels to its streaming platform (Android Authority).

🍎 The bitter lawsuit hanging over the Apple Watch’s new swipe keyboard (The Verge).

🍏 New iPad Mini has a downclocked A15 chip compared to iPhone 13: 2.9Ghz vs 3.2GHz in all iPhone 13 models (MacRumors)

🎮 Nintendo’s latest FCC filing reveals a mysterious new controller (The Verge).

🎮 Reports from Digital Foundry and Gamers Nexus show no ‘practical difference’ between Sony’s PS5 models, on latest firmware (Engadget).

🚴‍♂️ GoPro Hero 10 Black review: More of what makes GoPros great (CNET).

🔊 Podcast: Kara Swisher talks to former Quibi co-founder and Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg about how Quibi failed. Really interesting to hear how utter failure can be discussed without shame, though the idea it failed just because of the pandemic probably doesn’t gel with me, but we’ll never know if it would’ve worked as an on-the-go thing (NY Times, gift link).

🖥 Home computer legend Sir Clive Sinclair dies at 81. He also beat Texas Instruments to the pocket calculator by two years (Engadget).

🤐 Tesla unveils its quiet cabin secret which is proprietary “Tesla Glass” (Electrek).

🔋 Does driving an electric vehicle matter if the grid is fossil fueled? (Earther).

😬 The perils of an .xyz domain: too often treated as spam (spot.xyz).

🧶 “I’m going to ask my 80 year old grandmother to teach me how to knit, I’m a 30-year-old man but it looks relaxing. Is it difficult to learn?” (r/nostupidquestions).

Friday Fun

Feast your mere mortal eyes on the 2021 Winning Astronomy Photographer of the Year Images run by Royal Observatory Greenwich which are truly remarkable. (My favourites are, as ever, anything with the Moon in it and the Skyscapes category)

  • Helpfully, I was able to reach the Royal Observatory Greenwich by publishing time so I can include an image.
  • Just note the images are copyrighted by the photographer! 
  • The incredible pic below is Luna Dunes © Jeffrey Lovelace, composed of four images, in Death Valley National Park.
Winner Luna Dunes © Jeffrey Lovelace
Luna Dunes © Jeffrey Lovelace

Wondrously,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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