The Google Pixel Watch 2 could track your stress levels — here's how

Google Pixel Watch
(Image credit: Future)

Earlier this week, 9to5Google’s sources suggested that the Pixel Watch 2 might inherit the Fitbit Sense 2’s best feature — continuous electrodermal activity or cEDA — when it arrives later this year.

Now Google has published a long blog post explaining how the company trained the Sense 2’s built-in stress detector.

As the company explains, the Sense 2 can “track your stress in real-time by using a machine learning algorithm that was trained to know what to look for, like sweat levels, but also heart rate, heart rate variability and skin temperature.” 

In other words, if your wearable spots that your heart rate has gone up and your skin temperature has dropped, you might get a notification suggesting you do some breathing exercises or take a walk. 

While the watch is configured to your unique baselines over the first month of wear, Google reveals that the underlying algorithm was initially trained on participants being put through stressful situations — like mock job interviews for a dream role, and a horrible sounding “surprise math test." Just to add to the pressure, they were being watched in real time by three judges. 

“We used the data gleaned from this test to train the Body Response algorithm, a classical machine learning algorithm that identifies periods when the participants showed physiological signs of autonomic arousal,” Google explains.

The measurement of stress is complicated by the fact that many of the same symptoms occur when you’re excited, however. And while Fitbit disables the feature when you’re exercising, positive exciting things like hosting a party or going on a promising first date could also trigger an alert advising you to chill out. 

“This is where you play an important role in logging how you were feeling at that moment on your device, or later in the Fitbit app,” Google explains.

Coming to the Pixel Watch 2?

While Google says nothing about the feature’s future, it would certainly make sense for the Pixel Watch 2 to adopt it. 

Lest we forget, the original Pixel Watch was $50 pricier than the Fitbit Sense 2, and it certainly makes sense for the most premium wearable to get all the premium features. Google didn’t pay $2.1 billion for Fitbit to then not take full advantage of its features.

On that note, Google is also on the verge of starting the process to fully absorb Fitbit accounts. Droid Life reports that Google logins for Fitbit will go live this week on June 6. To begin with, it will be optional for existing users, but it won’t be forever, with Fitbit logins planned to be phased out by 2025. 

To try and ward off privacy concerns, Google has already said that it won’t be using Fitbit health and wellness data for the purpose of targeted advertising.

The Pixel Watch 2 is expected to launch alongside the Pixel 8 this fall with big improvements to performance and battery life. A new generation of Fitbits seems further away. 

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Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.