Researchers studying killer diseases like cancer and heart disease are trying to discover the first indications that a problem is going to occur—even at the molecular level. Verily, the health tech division that Google’s parent company Alphabet established in 2015, is launching a massive study called Project Baseline. Its goal is to collect enough data, duly processed through machine learning, to determine what a “healthy” person looks like and discover the early markers that their health is deteriorating. Working with Duke and Stanford universities, Verily will study 10,000 paid volunteers for four years using fitness trackers, physical checkups, genetic testing, and more.
Verily has been talking up the Baseline study for over a year. Now it has one of the components needed to launch in the coming months. On April 14, Verily introduced its Study Watch—a Fitbit-like wristband that measures stress (based on the electrical conductivity of skin), movement, and heart rate. Volunteers will also get a wide range of regular lab tests and take smartphone-based surveys about how they are feeling. Approved researchers will have access to the data collected, in anonymized form.
What do participants get in return? In addition to cash, they also get access to their health data and the chance to join conference calls with the Baseline study team. Verily is an old-fashioned word for “truly.” That describes what Google is ultimately offering its volunteers: the unabridged truth of their sickness and health.