When the NBA travels to the Orlando bubble to resume its season, the league provides players and staff with a smart ring that can help forecast the coronavirus. But the Oura health tracker ring was not originally intended to detect coronaviruses and it happened almost by surprise, the company’s CEO told CNBC on Tuesday.
The titanium ring was originally intended to provide its users with a general picture of their health by observing their movement, sleep and other functions. But its users began to notice that changes in their overall health score could be early predictors of illness.
“It started with our users,” said Harpreet Rai, CEO of Oura, in an interview on “Squawk Box.” “A user of ours in Finland was traveling in early March. His scores were normally in the 80s or 90s and he noticed that his readiness score dropped to 50 and that caused him to be tested. It was positive for the coronavirus.”
The Oura ring costs more than $ 300 and measures and records data ranging from sleep and body temperature to heart rate and respiratory function. The researchers said the device has been successful in recognizing Covid-19 symptoms up to three days in advance with 90% accuracy.
As the NBA heads to Walt Disney World in Florida, the league makes a plethora of tech items available to players and staff, including the Oura ring. Rai said the league has ordered more than 1,000 Oura rings. “They wanted to give players and staff an additional rate of protection and frankly peace of mind,” he told CNBC.
In Orlando, rings are optional, but the University of Michigan will study and evaluate data from players and staff who choose to participate to help generate an overall assessment of each person’s well-being. The company said changes in users’ probability of illness scores may indicate they may be at higher risk or show signs of coronavirus. The app that comes with the ring offers features like meditation to reduce stress and anxiety.
Users can also find another benefit of the ring: the sleep tracking feature. Oura tracks the signals the body sends out during rest and provides information on how to improve sleep habits.
As companies like Apple continue to invest in wearables, Rai said what sets Oura apart is that it tracks temperature during sleep. “I am glad to see that others are beginning to focus on sleeping,” she added. “We are not getting enough as a society, but I think there will be more and more competition.”