Thursday, April 22, 2021

Google’s latest Nest Hub smart display detects movement to track your sleep

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It’s been three years since Google launched its first smart display, with the Home Hub (later renamed the Nest Hub) claiming its space on our counters and bedside tables. Since then, the company has made bigger, more useful versions of its connected screen. But most of them are little more than digital photo frames with built-in speakers and assistant.

With its latest Nest Hub, Google added a surprise feature that could make smart display more useful. The second-generation Nest Hub has a Soli radar sensor that detects movement and uses that data to determine if you’re asleep.

Sleep tracking via motion detection

To recap, Soli was the product of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) division that used radar to detect movement “at different scales.” It was implemented at general level in the Pixel 4 to wake up the phone when you wave your hand over it. Soli also appeared in the latest Nest thermostat as a way to recognize if someone is in a room and adjust the temperature accordingly.

Google

On the new Nest Hub, Soli will allow the device to “watch” while you sleep, without a camera. Google calls this feature Sleep Sensing, and it’s opt-in. You will need to set up the screen a few feet from your bedside and tilt it towards your torso. After a calibration and configuration process, the sensor can capture movement at “incredibly precise levels,” according to Ashton Udall, senior product manager. Things like “the micrometric movement of your chest going in and out as you breathe and lie in your bed,” for example. Then Google’s algorithm will analyze your movement and determine when you are asleep, restless or awake and give you a report every morning. You can also choose to share this information with the Fit app to see your sleep patterns over time.

This of course raises some concerns, the most obvious being the fact that there are a lot of movements in bed that have nothing to do with sleep. So what happens then? Google’s algorithms will look at motion data and analyze which patterns are sleep-related movements and ignore things that aren’t. The Nest Hub is also designed to monitor one person at a time, and during calibration you’ll need to lie down in the middle of where you usually sleep. It is not yet clear how well the device will be able to analyze your partner’s movements – how well this all works is something we will have to see for ourselves when we test one.

Those who usually sleep alone and have a partner who stays on occasionally may also need to recalibrate their system or reduce those nights (there will be an option to exclude a night on the screen). Udall said you don’t need to sweat the odd irregular evenings since the goal here isn’t to fixate on everyday results. “These are your trends,” he told Engadget. “We don’t want people hanging on to their nightly data.” So if your dog jumps in your bed during a midnight thunderstorm, you shouldn’t worry about it ruining your results.

Animation showing what Google's Nest Hub Soli radar sees in its sleep detection spectograph

Google

Besides the efficiency of the system, there are also questions around privacy. Since it only uses radar and there’s no camera on board, at least the Nest Hub won’t have any footage of your bedtime activity. The spectograph of what it sees is similar to a heavily loaded ECG – lots of lines going up and down. The collection of this raw data is also processed on the device’s on-board machine learning chip, and what is sent to Google is interpreted as things like how long you slept and when you were restless. If sleep detection is on, you’ll also see a visual indicator on the screen so you or your guests know that the Nest Hub is monitoring your sleep.

The second-gen Nest Hub has a third mic (compared to the previous two) and uses them to detect if you’ve been coughing or snoring overnight. It will only turn on the mic when it detects that you have fallen asleep and the audio information is being processed locally and not being sent anywhere. The display also has a new temperature sensor that it uses in addition to the ambient light sensor to identify changes in your surroundings. In the morning you will receive a report on how you slept and if things like how cold or how bright affected your sleep. You will also see this in the Fit app and over time you will be able to identify trends such as whether you sleep better in the winter or wake up earlier when there is more light.

To develop its system, Google performed more than 110,000 nights of testing with approximately 10,000 people and compared it to established sleep studies. He found that compared to polysomnography studies, which Udall said are “the gold standard,” his algorithms gave no statistical difference. Additionally, compared to popular devices on the market “and even clinically approved sleep trackers on the market,” Udall said the performance of the Nest Hub was “on par or even better in many cases.”

Google Nest Hub Sleep Sensing and Google Fit.  The smart screen showing the sleep duration and a phone displaying Google Fit showing the user the recommended sleep duration.

Google

Again, it’s hard to judge this without testing it, but it’s worth noting that many fitness trackers worn on the wrist also detect your heart rate overnight. With this data, they can tell how deep you sleep and what restorative areas you enter, which could be more insightful. But Google’s approach seems to focus more on your surroundings (noise, temperature, movement, and disturbance) than your heart rate and body temperature. It might help you with things over which you have more control, like turning up the heat or pulling the blinds, for example.

This is potentially the most useful aspect of Nest Hub’s sleep detection feature, as Google integrates its results with the Assistant to suggest things like past bedtimes or routines for your bedroom lights. After 14 nights of monitoring, Google will be able to recommend a program to “optimize sleep efficiency”, based on advice from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the American Heart Association and the World Organization. of health.

Sleep detection will be free in preview for anyone who purchases the new Nest Hub until next year. Since Google has just integrated with Fitbit“Udall said” we are just getting to know each other, but we are actively exploring ways to bring these experiences together to create an awesome Google sleep solution.

Google Nest Hub 2nd gen in four colors

Google

Improved audio and connectivity

While sleep tracking is the standout feature of the new Nest Hub, there are still a few improvements to note over its predecessor. It has an improved sound system similar to the Nest Audio speaker, promising 50% more bass than the original Hub. The new integrated ML chip should make it possible to respond to your assistant requests faster (only available in the US), while its integrated Thread radio activate support for budding Project Connected Home platform over IP in the future.

With its new third microphone as well, the Nest Hub should be able to hear you better from further afield, and the Soli sensor allows gesture controls such as touching the air in front of the screen to pause playback or stop a timer. . While not much is different on the Nest Hub (its screen is still a pretty 7in, for example), Google has a new color option: Mist. It is a light pastel blue in addition to the existing options Charcoal (black), Chalk (gray) and Sable (pink).

The new Nest Hub costs $ 100 to $ 50 less than the original at launch. It is available for pre-order today from the Google Store, Best Buy, and Walmart, and hits stores on March 30, when you can also find it at Target and The Home Depot. For those who want to track their sleep without portable, mattress sensor or a camera, the Nest Hub can help. Google is clearly finding creative ways to track your health without wearable sensors, just like it has done by letting people measure their health. heart rate and respiratory rate with their phone cameras. The company continuing to roll out its software prowess for health monitoring is an interesting sign of things that could come up, especially as it begins to integrate more deeply with Fitbit.

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