App Review: Cardiio

App Review: Cardiio


Own a piece of magic that transforms your iPhone into an accurate, touch-free heart rate monitor.

?Award-winning technology (Popular Science Top 10 Inventions 2011, New York Times Magazine 10th Annual “Year in Ideas”) now available in the palm of your hand!?

? #1 Top Paid App (Health&Fitness) in 14 Countries ?

Cardiio uses your phone’s front camera to analyze the amount of light reflected off of your face; it accurately measures your pulse without any extra hardware. Just hold your phone and look straight into the camera to get your reading, then check out the dashboard to see how it changes over time.


PC Magazine – “… the app is simple, yet beautiful and pretty slick … Cardiio lets users get their money’s worth from their iPhone/iPad, all while skipping fumbling around with finding your pulse on your arm or neck, or buying more gadgets.” -

TechCrunch – “It actually doesn’t require any contact aside from holding the phone so that the front-facing camera captures your face.”

Fast Company – “Cardiio takes today’s technology (and ideas) one step further.”

Vator News – “Cardiio, a new heart rate monitoring app, is way ahead of the game.”

Cult of Mac – “Cardiio is one of those apps that wows you…”


• Touch-free, real-time heart rate measurements

• Beautiful and easy to use interface

• Personal dashboard with history (daily, weekly and monthly)

• Fitness level rating based on your heart rate

• Estimate your potential life expectancy

• See how your heart rate stacks up to others


Cardiio’s technology is based on cutting-edge research and science conducted at the MIT Media Lab. The measurement principles are the same as clinical pulse oximeters. Every time your heart beats, more blood rushes through the vessels in your face, causing them to expand. The increase in blood volume absorbs more light, resulting in a decrease in the amount of light reflected from your face. Using sophisticated software, your iPhone’s front camera can track these tiny variations in light that are invisible to the naked eye to calculate your heart rate.


Studies have shown that our heart rate measurements are within 3 bpm of a clinical pulse oximeter when performed at rest in a well-lit environment (Poh et al., Optics Express 2010, Poh et al., IEEE Trans Biomed Eng 2011).


• Be in a well-lit area so your face is well illuminated.

• Make sure your face is clearly visible (e.g. no long hair covering your forehead etc.) so that it can be easily detected.

• Don’t have a bright background behind you (backlight) – it makes your face appear dark in contrast.

• Fold one arm across your chest and rest the other arm that’s holding your phone against it to provide support and reduce motion of the phone during measurement.

• Look ahead and hold the phone in front of you instead of looking down at the phone – this allows more light to illuminate your face.

• Hold your phone steady and keep still during the measurement.

NEED HELP? If you have difficulty with the app, just contact us:


Your resting heart rate is an important indicator of general health, fitness and longevity.

• Although increasing your heart rate during exercise is good, it is generally better and healthier to have a lower resting heart rate.

• A lower resting heart rate means that your heart is stronger and can work more efficiently.

• A slower heart rate also generally indicates aerobic fitness.


Although accurate when used properly, Cardiio is not intended to diagnose, prevent or treat any condition, or to be a substitute for professional medical care. Measurements and statistics are intended for research, informational and educational purposes only.


“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” —— Arthur C. Clarke

Cardiio’s technology is based on cutting-edge research and science conducted at the MIT Media Lab. Studies have shown that our heart rate measurements are within 3 bpm of a clinical pulse oximeter when performed at rest in a well-lit environment (Poh et al., Opt. Express 2010; Poh et al., IEEE Trans Biomed Eng 2011).

Every time your heart beats, more blood is pumped into your face. This slight increase in blood volume causes more light to be absorbed, and hence less light is reflected from your face. Using sophisticated software, your iPhone’s front camera can track these tiny changes in reflected light that are not visible to the human eye and calculate your heart beat!

Here at Medgadget, we feature a lot of really innovative medical devices and technologies, but unfortunately, many of them won’t make it to the market or they’ll cost you your firstborn to purchase. That’s why we dig Cardiio, a new iOS app available now for $4.99.

Simply put, Cardiio measures and tracks your heart rate using just your iPhone. You may have seen and even tried out other apps that claim to do the same thing, but Cardiio is the real thing, backed by research at MIT and developed by engineers and scientists at MIT and Harvard. It’s also one of the newest startups supported by healthcare incubator Rock Health. Cardiio works by measuring the amount of light that is reflected off one’s face, which is imperceptible to human eyes, but detectable with a camera (see our post on Eulerian Video Magnification for further explanation).

cardio app 21 App Review: CardiioWe gave Cardiio a test drive this past week to see how well it can track our heart rate. We installed the app on our iPhone 4, although it was recommended that Cardiio be used on a dual-core iOS device such as an iPhone 4s or iPad 2. We also installed it on an iPad 2, although the app isn’t “universal”, so you’ll end up using a pixel-doubled version in full screen.

Launching the app shows a virtual stethoscope. All it takes now is a well-lit room and a steady hand to hold onto your device while Cardiio measures your heart rate. Since Cardiio needs to measure from as much facial skin as possible, it will let you know to move your phone closer to you by displaying a slightly transparent image of yourself in the “reflection” of the stethoscope, which gives it a neat little aesthetic feature. Once the analysis begins, it usually takes between five to 30 seconds, depending on lighting conditions and how stable you’re holding the device. It’s also another nice little touch that Cardiio displays heart-related trivia and random sayings while your heart rate is being measured to help you pass the time.

We used Cardiio to measure our resting heart rate and our heart rate after a 30-minute cardio session at the gym and found it to be very accurate. The results were quite close when we compared them to the measurements from our chest strap pulse monitor, the heart rate monitor on the gym treadmill, and the good ‘ol two-fingers-on-the-carotid-artery method.

cardio app App Review: CardiioOf course, no iOS health and fitness app would be complete without the ability to track your heart rate. Clicking on the “Insight” button at the bottom gives you some useful (and interesting) information about your cardiac health. Swiping across the top half of the screen gives you 7- and 30-day averages of your measurements. The bottom half compares your heart rate with the average person and also correlates your heart rate with your fitness level and the life expectancy of various animals. While we won’t personally alter our lifestyle based on our life expectancy in comparison with a sheep, it is a fun statistic. Perhaps it also could give the most unhealthy person some solace that he or she can still outlive a lowly farm animal.

Overall, we really love Cardiio and its mix of useful information and just plain fun. However, we do think that $4.99 is a little high, so we hope the app will soon add additional features. Cloud support, social media integration, or integration with other devices such as the FitBit would make this app even more useful. Adding a feature that can integrate your heart rate with an exercise and fitness goal would also be helpful, as we don’t see a huge benefit of simply measuring your heart rate randomly throughout the day.

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