Oura, the company behind the Oura Ring family of wearable devices, today announced that blood oxygen sensing is rolling out to the third-generation Oura Ring. It’s a long time coming – Oura previewed the feature last fall. But Oura, who claims the wait was worth it, says oxygen sensing will provide a “more comprehensive assessment of sleep health and physiology” to owners of its latest flagship product.
The third-generation Oura Ring measures blood oxygen, or SpO2, through red and infrared LED sensors that shine light into a wearer’s finger and use the reflections that bounce back to estimate how much oxygen is in the blood. Richly oxygenated blood reflects more red light than infrared light, while deoxygenated blood tends to reflect more infrared light than red light.
The technique is called pulse oximetry and has long been a fixture on wearable devices from Fitbit, Garmin, Apple, Withings and others. Some studies have shown that pulse oximetry is relatively accurate. But experts warn that it is not clinical grade. (In a blog post detailing the new SpO2 feature, Oura is quick to note that the Oura Ring’s statistics aren’t meant to diagnose conditions.)
Oura adds two metrics to the Oura Ring’s blood oxygen readings: mean blood oxygen and respiratory rate. The average blood oxygen level estimates the percentage of oxygen in the blood, while the regularity of breathing tries to detect ‘unusual’ breathing patterns – ie drops in the oxygen level in the blood – during the night or a nap longer than three hours.
Mean blood oxygen and breathing regularity measurements are enabled by default. They can be turned off via the Blood Oxygen Sensing settings in the main menu of the Oura app; Oura notes that the third-generation Oura Ring’s battery life “may be slightly shorter than usual” when the measurements are active.
The advent of oxygen measurement in the blood follows a series of ups and downs for the Oura Ring. When the smart ring debuted last fall, Oura revealed that unlocking certain features required a $6 per month subscription. Few of these features were available at launch, which frustrated customers – Oura previewed updated sleep tracking algorithms and heart rate monitoring for workouts, but delayed the release.
Despite internal instability (the CEO resigned in December), Oura has made an effort to get the ship right. At the end of last year, the company announced that it would postpone the aforementioned subscription fee for six months. And the improved heart rate tracking came in May, with the improved sleep-tracking algorithms slated for release this fall. Hopefully that’s some consolation for the early adopters.