A Smartphone’s Camera and Flash Could Help People Measure Blood Oxygen Levels at Home


First, pause and take a deep breath.

First, pause and take a deep breath.

When we breathe in, our lungs fill with oxygen, which is distributed to our red blood cells for transportation throughout our bodies. Our bodies need a lot of oxygen to function, and healthy people have at least 95% oxygen saturation all the time.

Conditions like asthma or COVID-19 make it harder for bodies to absorb oxygen from the lungs. This leads to oxygen saturation percentages that drop to 90% or below, an indication that medical attention is needed.

In a clinic, doctors monitor oxygen saturation using pulse oximeters — those clips you put over your fingertip or ear. But monitoring oxygen saturation at home multiple times a day could help patients keep an eye on COVID symptoms, for example.

Read more at University of Washington

Image: This technique involves having participants place their finger over the camera and flash of a smartphone, which uses a deep-learning algorithm to decipher the blood oxygen levels from the blood flow patterns in the resulting video. (Credit: Dennis Wise/University of Washington)