A COVID-19 detector might not be realistic
Harpreet Rai, the CEO of smart ring company Oura, often tells a story about a March 2020 Facebook post. An Oura ring user posted that the device said that his overall health score had dropped below his normal level, which prompted him to get tested for COVID-19 — and the test ended up being positive. The company heard from other users, too.
The anecdotal reports encouraged Oura to partner with research teams to try to figure out how well the ring could predict who might be sick with COVID-19. Their studies were part of a wave of interest over the past year in wearable devices as illness detectors. Now, flush with data, researchers and wearable companies are looking toward their next steps.
Research done over the past year showed that it’s probably possible to flag when someone is sick. But differentiating which illness someone might have will be much harder. Experts think it might eventually be possible, but in the near future, illness detection programs might look more like warning lights: they could tell a user that they might be getting sick, but just not with what.