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Fitness Trackers Detect Heartbeat from Toilet Paper Rolls


Written by Conner Flynn | December 5, 2018

I’ve never really trusted those fitness trackers. There’s just no way they can get accurate results. Actually, that’s just something I say to justify those extra doughnuts this morning. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some validity to my concerns. Recently, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 generated some controversy after one user found out that the latest fitness tracker from the Chinese gadget maker could detect what it thought was the heartbeat of a roll of toilet paper.

Hey, I’d be nervous too if someone was about to wipe poo on me. The first video of the quirk was posted on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo. Soon after, others started exploring other objects that may be alive. Videos of the fitness tracker strapped all kinds of things started to show up online. Yes, bananas have a heart rate too.

The results were all the same; they all appeared to have heartbeats. Later, Chinese tech site Abacus made a video using other wearables, including Apple Watch Series 4, and an Android Wear device and they also picked up the “heart rate” of inanimate objects. Damn. Well, either everything is alive or these devices don’t work.

Actually, there is a logical explanation. It turns out fitness trackers and smartwatches use light to track the blood. The green light illuminates the capillaries in the wrist, while a sensor measures the frequency of the blood flow. Using an algorithm, the smartwatch is able to determine beats per minute. So it comes down to whether the light is absorbed or reflected, and that explains the mystery. Makes you wonder if it would detect a heart rate from a dead body though, doesn’t it?

[via Lost at E Minor via Mike Shouts]