Google Launches New Nest Hub With Sleep Tracking Radar
Google released the second-generation Nest Hub this week, opening up pre-sales for a planned March 30 shipping date. The new smart display makes mostly subtle improvements on its predecessor, but with the addition of a sleep-tracking Soli radar system.
The new Nest Hub shares a lot of similarities with its earlier iteration, which debuted in 2018 as the Google Home Hub. The fabric-covered speaker sits behind the identically-sized seven-inch display and 600p graphic resolution. Except for the lighter color of the sensor window and the new ‘Mist’ color option, the latest Nest Hub looks all but identical to the previous version. The semi-invisible improvements serve to draw even more attention to Sleep Sensing, a device-free sleep monitor, and the new smart display’s central highlight.
Google decided to pursue Sleep Sensing based on its data showing about one in five Nest Hubs are placed next to people’s beds. It’s an opt-in feature, however, and all of the data is kept on the device and can be deleted at any time. Using low-energy radar technology developed by Google’s Soli project, Sleep Sensing measures the nearest person’s sleep patterns by tracking their movement and breathing with radar. The feature also tracks noises and changes in light and temperature using the Nest Hub’s other sensors to paint a fuller picture of their sleeping patterns. Based on the data gathered by the feature, the smart display offers help and advice on sleeping better.
“Every morning you’ll receive a personalized sleep summary on your display, or you can view your sleep data anytime on the Nest Hub by asking, “Hey Google, how did I sleep?” Google Nest product manager Ashton Udall wrote in a blog post. “Understanding your sleep is an important first step, but you may still have questions about what you can do to get better sleep. Sleep Sensing provides tailored bedtime schedules and personalized suggestions developed by a team of sleep scientists and using guidance from organizations like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Compiled after several nights of analysis, these suggestions point out notable aspects of your sleep, educate you on why they’re important and provide suggestions to improve.”
Google has upgraded other elements of the Nest Hub, too, though without the same fanfare. For instance, the new smart display uses the same high-end sound technology used in the Nest Audio smart speaker introduced last year. Google claims there is a 50% improvement on the bass sound from the first Nest Hub. The Nest Hub also takes a page from the Nest Audio by installing a chip that keeps some of Google Assistant’s processing on the device, speeding up its response time. The new Nest Hub is priced at $100, which is actually cheaper than the cost of the first version when it launched.
Focusing on Sleep Sensing makes sense for Google and its interest in health-focused devices, with the data appearing on the new wellness section on Nest smart displays. Sleep Sensing will be free to start, but Google is planning to connect it to a paid service eventually. Presumably, Sleep Sensing data will be an add-on for a Fitbit premium subscription, now that Google appears to have finally completed acquiring the health tech company. Google may also be jumping in early on a trend for collecting health metrics from devices just in close proximity, without the need for a fitness band or other wearable. A newly published study demonstrated that existing commercial smart speakers could be used to measure heart rates and spot irregularities. Combining that kind of tool with Sleep Sensing could offer people comprehensive yet unobtrusive monitoring of their health.
“We know people already come to Google for information and tools to help them live healthier, happier lives, and we’ve specifically noticed more and more questions about sleep, exercise and health,” Udall wrote. “So we decided to bring these kinds of solutions to our second-generation Nest Hub, while also improving what people already love about it.”