The Inside Story of How a Sleep Tracker Became the Hottest Device of the Pandemic
From the NBA to Vegas casinos, everyone’s clamoring for the $299 Oura ring—but not even the startup knows if it can actually detect Covid-19
The Oura ring is suddenly everywhere. The $299 sleep tracking device has adorned the digits of Prince Harry, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and, since July 9, 1,000 employees at the Venetian and Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas, and most of the NBA players entering the Walt Disney World “bubble” in Florida. The reason for the hype? The ring’s sensors monitor users’ health data, including heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate. Oura crunches this data into a daily “readiness” score, which their connected app serves up to users each morning — the score indicates how hard to push yourself that day; for example, if you’ve slept badly, and your score is low, maybe skip the workout that day. Early studies also suggest the ring’s a useful early detection tool for signs of Covid-19.
With no vaccine in sight, wearable tech is having a field day in the time of Covid-19. PGA golfer Nick Watney credits his Whoop watch as the reason he got tested. Duke University launched CovIdentify, asking people with a Fitbit, Garmin watch, or iPhone to download their app in order to analyze if their data can predict infection or severity. Scripps Research Institute put out similar asks for their DETECT study, which aims to speed up identification of areas with outbreaks. And Fitbit, which Google intends to acquire, announced they’d built Ready for Work, a connected app that allows bosses to monitor their employees’ health. Some startups are even floating the idea of wearable smart patches.
It’s no wonder why employers are flocking to wearables like the Oura ring right now; doing something, anything that might potentially prevent or diagnose the disease is very alluring, especially for businesses that have been crushed by the contagion or by reopening restrictions. No one…