Thursday, Jun 1, 2023

Digital Health: Is it precious? The Oura Ring (Gen3) Review

A device so simple that it can sit around one’s finger, yet so powerful that wars were waged over it. For the One Ring augments the wielder’s..

A device so simple that it can sit around one’s finger, yet so powerful that wars were waged over it. For the One Ring augments the wielder’s abilities and powers to rule them all; that is if you are a Middle-earth dweller from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. But while we aren’t residents of Tolkien’s high fantasy epic, another ring has been making heads turn in the digital health world: the Oura Ring from Finland-based ŌURA. 

Yes, Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey wears one as do NBA players; but the smart ring made waves recently following reports that it could indicate when the wearer is sick before symptoms show. In some cases, it could potentially help identify asymptomatic COVID-19 infections, which can make up to 40% of cases. Quite the ability-enhancing wearable for our non-fantasy world; but would it entice digital health and fitness enthusiasts to call it their precious?

That’s what we’ll find out in this review as we’ve had the opportunity to test the Oura Ring. More specifically, it is the newly-released generation 3 (Gen3) model, which is similar in size to the Gen2 but packs thrice the number of sensors and has expanded memory. So let’s slide it on!

Wielding the ring… out of its box

The Oura Ring is one sleek and stylish wearable packing a decidedly minimalist appeal. Design-wise, it might be the most inconspicuous fitness tracker we’ve tested so far. It just looks like a regular ring, albeit slightly larger than what most rings look like but still not obnoxiously salient. However, this also depends on the user’s fingers as the ring might look more conspicuous on slender fingers. That said, wearing a smart ring with well-concealed sensors aligns well with the “invisible healthcare” that we envisioned; and ŌURA inches closer to that vision.

Before sliding it on your finger though, you’ll need to find the right size for you. ŌURA will send you a sizing kit once you place your order. This kit comes with a number of dummy rings of different diameters and you’ll have to find one that fits your finger best (ŌURA recommends the index finger for optimal performance and accuracy). 

Once you find the desired size, it is recommended to wear the dummy ring for around 24 hours so that you can ensure that it’s the proper fit as you go on with your daily activities. We would strongly recommend abiding by this sizing procedure as a well-fitted ring will be able to monitor your metrics better. This will also ensure that you don’t use a larger ring that might slip off your finger unawares or one that’s too tight that can cause discomfort over extended periods.

Once you’re satisfied with the ring size, you can inform the company and they will arrange for your actual ring to ship to you. This might take around one week or more; and once it is delivered, you’ll find the Oura Ring itself, a charging cable and its wireless charging dock. After juicing the device up, it’s time to finally wield it on your finger as the powerful Sauron would and see how it can augment your humane abilities!

Digital Health: Is it precious? The Oura Ring (Gen3) Review

Fitness tracking at your fingertips

Weighing between 4 to 6 grams (depending on the ring size), it is easy to forget that you are wearing the Oura Ring at all. We’ve found ourselves double-checking to see if the ring is still in place and hasn’t slid off unexpectedly; it’s that light, inconspicuous and surprisingly comfortable. This is more so if you wear it on your non-dominant hand and don’t have other rings in the adjacent fingers.

In fact, it very much appears that the Oura Ring is designed to be forgotten by the user while it handles all of the tracking. It is water-resistant up to 100 metres; meaning you can safely wear it while showering, doing the dishes or even swimming. We’ve easily got 5 days of battery life from a single charge with Bluetooth on; while more can be juiced out if you switch on Airplane Mode. It’s more than what most smartwatches can muster, and not having to worry about the battery life every single day provides a sense of peace of mind.

Luckily, even when offline, the Oura Ring will keep monitoring your health metrics, store them for up to 7 days and upload them to the companion app once you get it back online. The companion app also provides over 50 guided audio sessions for meditation, sleep, focus, energy boosts, among others.

As for the actual metrics that this wearable monitors, they are multifold. It tracks your heart rate round the clock; counts your steps taken; monitors your sleep patterns; tracks your temperature as well as offers period tracking and prediction. The latter is a welcome addition given how fitness trackers often omit period monitoring despite it being essential for the female demographic.

All these metrics are condensed in an easy-to-digest manner in the form of 3 scores: Readiness, Activity and Sleep. The Sleep Score lets you know how restful your night was by taking into account factors like your sleep stages and nightly heart rate. Readiness gives you an indication regarding how well you can expect to perform during the day by factoring in your sleep, activity and body stress signals such as temperature and heart rate variability. As for Activity, it tells you about your active calorie burn and inactive time.

These scores really do help give the user a handy view of their fitness levels at a glance; with more details about the actual metrics available on the dedicated tabs of each score.

The science of the Oura Ring

All things considered, the Oura Ring is a pretty impressive piece of tech, given how many sensors are packed in its tiny form factor. It even monitors metrics that have traditionally required dedicated devices, and this really shows the wonders of digital health technologies. When compared to other fitness trackers like the TicWatch Pro, we found the smart ring’s data such as step count, sleep and heart rate monitoring to be comparable. While the companion app neatly syncs your workouts through Apple Health and Google Fit, you can also manually add a workout or activity. It could thus effectively replace a fitness tracker if you don’t want your fitness tracker to have a screen with distracting notifications. 

Digital Health: Is it precious? The Oura Ring (Gen3) Review

It’s further encouraging to see that the technology is backed by studies. One ŌURA-funded study found that the device could be appropriate to detect the onset of fever before symptoms show. While the company backed this study, it was peer-reviewed and ŌURA was not involved in analysing and interpreting the data. However, the Oura Ring has also attracted other independent studies. One such study from the University of California found the device to be rather appropriate for non-invasive fertility assessment.

However, one must not consider getting the ring to figure out if they’ve been infected with COVID-19 or the flu. The key here is that it can only indicate potential ailments and the device itself should not have the final word. Instead, it’s the task of medical professionals. Users of the Oura Ring can consult with their physicians in case of suspicious readings; and the latter can recommend retaking measurements and analyse the data remotely.

A long term affair

While the Oura Ring provides a number of useful health tracking, it still feels a bit incomplete at the time of writing; especially considering the $299 price tag. Firstly, even though you can monitor your heart rate at will with it, you cannot do the same for your body temperature. You can see how your body temperature varies overall on a specific day but not your current body temperature. 

Moreover, several features still haven’t been made public but are expected to roll out this year. For example, the handy Period Prediction is accessible on iOS devices but not on Android. Workout heart rate and insights are also expected to come in early 2022; while sleep blood oxygen levels (SpO2) tracking will launch later in the year.

And while ŌURA touts its device as being one of the most accurate sleep trackers, it lacks a feature that The Medical Futurist considers as the holy grail of health tracking: a smart sleep alarm. Even though the companion app provides detailed sleep tracking data, it doesn’t include a smart alarm feature to wake the user up at the optimal time. An alternative could be to have the ring gently rumble, but the additional electronics involved might make the device bulkier.

And lastly, even though you are paying a rather hefty price for the Gen3 ring, you will need to factor in some more costs if you want full access to the Oura app and its handy insights and personalised recommendations. All new Oura Ring users are provided with 6 free months of membership but will have to pay $7 per month afterwards to make full use of the app and its features.  

Digital Health: Is it precious? The Oura Ring (Gen3) Review

However, even if you can afford it, you might want to wait till all of its features are unlocked. With the Gen3’s improved and additional sensors, ŌURA says that what is accessible at the moment scratches the surface of the ring’s capabilities. 

This smart ring might not be everyone’s precious ring, but it is a promising one. Once its full potential is put on display, the Oura Ring Gen3 might make for an even more enticing device than it currently is; and we can’t wait to see more of what new abilities it has in store. 

Written by Dr. Bertalan Meskó & Dr. Pranavsingh Dhunnoo

The post Digital Health’s Precious? The Oura Ring (Gen3) Review appeared first on The Medical Futurist.


By: Pranavsingh Dhunnoo
Title: Digital Health’s Precious? The Oura Ring (Gen3) Review
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Published Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2022 09:00:00 +0000

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