When Google launched the Pixel 8 Pro, it revealed a feature that seemed to be a solution looking for a problem. It had a temperature sensor, one of if not the first to debut on a smartphone, that was advertised as a way to, well, check the temperature of food or your baby’s water bottle. There were leaks claiming that it could also take your body’s temperature, but that never came to pass, at least until now. Google finally let the cat out of the bag that it was just waiting for FDA approval, so the Pixel 8 Pro is now capable of reading your body temp, though the exact process and usefulness of that feature still remains a big question mark.
Why would you want to use your phone to read your own temperature anyway? That’s because many people have been quite obsessed with checking their body temperature ever since the recent pandemic, and short of awkwardly carrying a thermometer with you all the time, using a smartphone is the next best thing. But since the feature would be used to take the place of a medical device, it needed regulatory approval first, which Google finally got.
According to the tech giant, the secret to this feature is the infrared sensor that’s positioned right beside its cameras. Before this body temperature feature was finally released, all it was allowed to do was measure the temperature of non-living objects by holding the phone no farther than two inches from the target. Unsurprisingly, there’s only a limited number of applications for such a thermometer, so it was like a feature that buyers were paying for but couldn’t fully use. The narrative now changes with the addition of body temperature readings, but it might not be a clear win either.
It uses the infrared radiation, a.k.a. heat, that our body generates to make this reading, but Google claims it does one better than the typical forehead digital thermometers commonly used today. It measures the temporal artery, that is, the artery located on your temple, to get a more accurate reading. Of course, the data is further processed by an AI-powered algorithm before being displayed on the Pixel thermometer app. The process, however, isn’t as quick or as straightforward as those forehead thermometers. You need to first hold the Pixel 8 Pro two inches away from the center of your forehead, wait for the beep to signal the start of the scanning process, and then swipe the phone toward your temple, all in just four seconds. The scanning automatically stops after four seconds, so the accuracy of the reading also depends on how accurate your movements are.
Although Google is quite confident in the accuracy of this feature, it’s still a bit doubtful how much use it will get in real life. Admittedly, body temperature reading is far more useful than precariously placing your phone so close to a hot object, let alone one that’s giving off smoke or steam. Fortunately, the Feature Drop that delivered this feature on Pixel phones also has other goodies, like Circle to Search which was first announced on the Samsung Galaxy S24 series. Google is also launching a new Mint Green flavor of the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, in case you’re still in the market for a new phone, especially one that you can also use as a thermometer.