Oura ring: Wearable device that tracks activity and vital statistics
Ring could also double as an early warning system for coronavirus infections in wearers
Oura ring: may be able to spot early warning signs of Covid-19 in people and alert them to the potential need to quarantine or get a test.
Product name: Oura Ring
Where to buy: https://ouraring.com/
Have you heard about the Oura ring? The wearable device is subtle(ish), tracks your activity and vital statistics, and it could serve as an early warning system for Covid-19 infections in wearers.
Sounds a bit too good to be true? Maybe not. In the US, the National Basketball Association has given the ring to all its players. Casino owner Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian and Palazzo resorts, bought up to 1,000 of the rings to trial with staff as the Strip reopened, with a view to investing in them for 9,000 staff if the trial proves successful.
Reports earlier this summer indicated that Oura may be able to spot early warning signs of Covid-19 in people and alert them to the potential need to quarantine or get a test.
How does it work? The ring has temperature and infrared LED sensors, a gyroscope and accelerometer. These measure, among other things, your heart rate, body temperature and respiration rate. It also tracks your heart rate variability – the variation in milliseconds between your heartbeats.
It is those measurements that could provide a clue about a potential coronavirus infection in the wearer, and Oura is taking part in a study with UCSF Health to see if there is an algorithm that could be used to monitor and predict Covid-19 infection patterns.
But that’s a sideshow to the main act really. Oura is designed to keep an overall eye on your health and wellness, pinpointing things like a bad night’s sleep or lack of activity. The ring uses its sensors and some algorithms to come up with a “readiness” score, so your daily movement goals are amended accordingly. That means no punishing workouts on days when you tossed and turned half the night, for example.
The ring itself has undergone a few changes since it was first released. There are a few different designs and finishes, including a diamond-set one, but they all have the same functionality. It looks like a plain band – there are no LEDs to alert you when you’ve reached your goal, for example – with all the technology hidden on the inner part of the ring.
Oura sent out a sizing kit that allowed me to choose the right size band. You wear the plastic ring for at least 24 hours before ordering the ring, to make sure you’ve got the right fit. Once the ring arrives, it takes only a few minutes to set up with the app before you are ready to go.
And that’s it really. The beauty of the Oura is that you forget you are wearing it. You put the ring on and it just does its thing. You get a notification through the app occasionally to recharge the battery, so you pop it on the dock for a little while and you are good to go.
The app is where all your data lives. It shows you your calorie burn, your activity level, how you’ve slept, how many steps you took, your training volume and intensity, and your recovery time, among other things. You can see how active you were hour to hour each day.
You can manually add your workouts for the day to have them considered too. There is also a good bit of information on interpreting the data in the app. Too often fitness apps show you data without any explanation of whether your readings are good, bad or indifferent. Oura provides the right amount of information without overdoing it.
Each day you can check in on your readiness score, or occasionally dip into the app to see how you are doing on activity. But Oura will alert you through the app if something needs your attention, so you don’t really need to do anything too taxing.
One thing you might want to check in on is Moment. It’s a mindfulness feature that will give you the chance to do some breathing exercises, mediation, or just check in on your body’s status. It will give you your resting heart rate, average heart rate variability and (on iOS) skin temperature. It’s a good way to check in on how you are doing during the day.
As a sleep monitor, I found it was generally accurate, although occasionally, an extended Netflix session lying on the coach registered as sleep – depending on what I was watching. On days where my sleep was broken and my readiness score was lower than usual, it was reflected in my general wellbeing. Those were the days where everything felt a bit off.
One thing to note though: Oura is not a straightforward replacement for an activity tracker in that it doesn’t track individual exercise in the way that a Fitbit would. The ring will track your overall activity level, but it won’t automatically monitor exercise and categorise it as a run or a cycle.
It also won’t track your heart rate during exercise, in the way that you have become used to from your smartwatch; it’s more for keeping an eye on your resting heart rate and giving you a general overview of your health. If you want detailed workout stats, you’ll need to crack out the smartwatch.
It’s easy to use and you just forget about it. Plus with all the heart rate data, body temperature readings, respiratory rate and so on, it may serve as an early warning sign for all illness, not just for coronavirus.
The not so good:
If you have smaller hands, it’s a little on the chunky side. Plus if you want to have more detailed activity data, you’ll need another wearable to measure it, or remember to do it yourself through an app on your phone.
The device doesn’t measure your heart rate during exercise specifically. It will note your activity levels on an hourly basis, and Moment will give you a chance to check in on your heart rate at certain points throughout the day, but Oura is intended as a fitness tracker. It’s a holistic approach.
As a general health tracker, Oura has the best of all worlds: it’s more subtle and you can simply forget you are even wearing it.