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Oura’s newest smart ring goes way beyond tracking sleep

With new sensors and features, the latest Oura Ring aims to be a capital “H” health device.

Oura’s newest smart ring goes way beyond tracking sleep
[Photo: courtesy of Oura Health]

Oura Health is announcing the third generation of its sleep tracking ring. In its latest iteration, the Oura Ring goes far beyond basic features, such as tracking sleep and counting steps, which were emphasized in previous models. According to CEO Harpreet Singh Rai, that was the long-term plan all all along. “We‘re focused on health—we always have been,” he says.

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That focus has been evident in the flurry of academic research Oura has been conducting over the past year to see if its ring can be useful as a barometer for early COVID-19 infection, fertility, anxiety and depression, and addiction relapse. The ring has even been used to gauge the health impacts of living in an underwater research facility 60 feet beneath the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The company is still participating in sleep research, too.

[Photo: courtesy of Oura Health]
The latest ring, now available for preorder, comes with several new sensors that will let it expand its ambitions further. In the past, Oura has recorded heart rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature, and respiratory rate. The ring now has seven temperature sensors to increase accuracy. It’s also added red and green LED sensors to better track daytime heart rate (it uses infrared sensors for nighttime heart rate tracking).

The ring will also be equipped with a pulse oximeter to track blood oxygen levels, though that feature won’t be turned on until sometime next year. Rai says that certain blood oxygen levels may be a sign of sleep apnea. Professional athletes also use blood oxygen tracking to understand their readiness to train.

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[Photo: courtesy of Oura Health]
In addition to new sensors are new features aimed at helping people know what to do with this data. First on deck is period prediction, a menstrual tracking feature that can estimate a period 30 days in advance and send an alert six days before the start date. The app uses skin temperature in addition to historical period cycle data to come up with its estimates.

Rai says the new temperature sensors can also be used to get a sense of whether the wearer might be sick. The app also has improved ability to determine which stage of sleep a person is in, though it’s still not as good as the test a specialist would give you. And, later this year, the company will also introduce live heart rate tracking.

These broader health features are in step with other upgrades that Oura launched during the pandemic, including a rest feature informed by the COVID-19 research studies the company participated in. If the app thinks that a person may be coming down with a cold based on biometric data, it will suggest turning on rest mode. In rest mode, users no longer get activity scores or reminders to exercise; instead, they get suggestions for how to recover.  

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Some new additions to Oura Ring mimic recent upgrades to other wearables on the market. For example, Apple added a pulse oximeter to its sixth-generation Apple Watch and has a monthly subscription fitness membership. But other Oura moves, like deciding to focus on women’s reproductive health, are more unique.

Like its predecessors, the third-generation Oura Ring is $299 ($399 if you want it in gold or a dark matte grey). However, it now has a monthly membership program attached. For $6 per month, Oura Health will offer personalized recommendations as well as access to a library of content that aims to help people better understand their bodies. For now, the content is focused around sleep, recovery, and meditation, but eventually it’s likely to host more fitness material. New Oura Ring owners will get a free six-month membership, as will anyone who purchased an Oura Ring in the last 30 days. (Recent purchasers will also get a free upgrade to the new ring.)

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Oura Health isn’t the only company that’s stuffed health sensors into a ring, but it’s easily the most prominent player in the category and says it’s sold over 500,000 rings to date. Like the makers of almost every health gadget on the market—which also include the Apple Watch, Amazon Halo, Fitbit, and even Google’s Pixel Phone—the company is trying to figure out what exactly health means to the average consumer and how its device can help. Rai says there are four prongs of health he’d like Oura to ultimately address: sleep, activity, mental health, and diet.

“For us it’s continuing to keep moving and pushing the boundaries of health in areas that other wearables aren’t,” says Rai. “I think sleep was just our first manifestation.”

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About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

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