Google X is Working on a Wearable–and it Could Help One of its Moonshots

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on at

Autonomous cars and phantom internet planes are exciting and all, but Google X also has a division that’s focusing on something more interesting: human life. Now, it says it’s working on a wearable that could be used to help it.

Bloomberg describes the as-of-yet unnamed wristband, which will track biometrics like heartbeat and activity like its competitors—but will also go much further, supplying super-accurate data that could be used in medical trials and studies. In fact, that’s the main use case for the device, which may not ever be commercially available to individual consumers.

It was developed under the direction of Google X’s Andrew Conrad, says Bloomberg:

Conrad said he hopes that in the future, tools like Google’s wristband would be used by healthy people to catch early signs of disease. “I envision a day, in 20 or 30 years, where physicians give it to all patients,” said Conrad. “Prevention means all the time.”

You might recognize Conrad’s name, since he directs Google X’s life sciences division. In fact, another project he’s directing could be directly related to this news. It’s called Baseline, and it seeks to, well, establish a “baseline” of data for human health.

That sounds simple, but it’s actually one of the more complicated problems in medicine. Why? Because the bulk of what we know about human life is based on studying sick people, not healthy ones. We don’t have a good sense for the biometrics of a normal healthy human—so Google is carrying out an unprecedented level of study on 175 participants, including genetic testing, to establish a baseline.

A Google spokesperson told me this spring that the team is currently developing its methodology by testing it on smaller groups of subjects. A wristband that sends reliable medical data back to a central hub instantaneously? That could make this sprawling, complicated task a lot simpler.

We’ve yet to find out exactly how Google plans to test or commercialise this device, so we’ll have to wait and see whether it’ll be used on other Google X projects like Baseline. For now, Bloomberg says the device is undergoing extensive prototyping and testing.

Image: watchara