If someone told you, “There’s an app that uses the camera in your cell phone to accurately measure your heart rate,” you and I would think that person is out of their mind. Well, we would be wrong. Instant Heart Rate, much to my amazement, works really well!
You turn on the app, gently place your finger over the camera lens, and hold it steady there for at least 10 seconds; the app then tells you your heart rate. How is that possible? According to the app’s description:
“On every heartbeat the colour of the surface of your skin changes. The camera in your mobile device tracks these changes and calculates your heart rate. It works in a similar way as a medical pulse oximeter…”
I never in a million years would have believed that the (relatively lousy) cameras on our cell phones could pick up on something as subtle as that, but somehow, it does. And it’s pretty accurate, too. I had a friend take my pulse as I tested the app, and then tested it on him. Generally, the results were accurate to within three to five beats per minute. Not bad!
The app suggests you use it in a well-lit area, but if your phone has an LED flash on it, it will use that, too. On an original Droid phone, it worked extremely well.
The app itself is pretty bare-bones. You can turn the flash on or off, and the app has a number of sharing options such as Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, messaging, Gmail, and so on, so your friends can know exactly how fast your heart is beating (though why they would care is a bit of a mystery to me). It’s ad-supported, and the ads are unobtrusive, down at the bottom of the screen.
I really like this app; though the accuracy could be improved slightly, it’s usually right to within just a few beats. It has applications for exercise and medical issues, and of course it gives you a chance to say to your friends, “Dude, look what my phone can do!” and then see the look of disbelief on their faces.