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New Google Nest Hub display wants to put you to sleep



Google has a yawning desire to help you sleep better.


Some two years after introducing its first Nest Hub smart display, Google is coming out with a new $99.99 model with sleep sensing features that can analyze the quality of your slumber, and detect how often you snored, coughed or may have been awaken by light or temperature changes in the bedroom. The promise is such insights will eventually result in more restful and consistent nights of shut eye.


In the morning, you’ll see personalized sleep summary on the 7-inch Nest display. Or you can ask at any time, “Hey Google, how did I sleep?” You can also look at the summary through the Google Fit app on iOS and Android devices.


Among other metrics, Nest Hub reports your respiratory wellness, expressed as respiration per minute or RPMs. Google will also serve up advice along the lines of eating a better breakfast or waking up more consistently. Over time Google will recommend an “ideal” sleep routine.


Non-invasive sleep tech. Unlike some other sleep tech devices, Nest Hub is non-invasive, meaning you won’t have to wear anything on your body. That's a big plus for folks who don't want to wear earbuds or something around their head while they sleep, for example. The product leverages low-energy radar technology known as Soli, which can detect subtle motion but not specific bodies or faces. Google says it tested Nest Hub over 100,000 nights with thousands of people. Results were validated against a polysomnography (PSG) or sleep study, as well as a variety of consumer and clinical grade sleep trackers. Google has partnered with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as well as the American Heart Association and World Health Organization.


According to the company, if you opt into cough and snore tracking, Nest Hub will use Soli-based sleep algorithms to detect when you first get into bed. Then after you’ve fallen asleep, an on-device sound sensing model is activated and begins processing audio. The technical explanation is that the model works by continuously extracting spectrogram-like features from the audio input and feeding them through a convolutional neural network classifier, used to estimate the probability that coughing, or snoring, is happening at a given instant in time.


Sleep partner needs own device. At bedtime wind down features kick in, with Nest Hub playing soothing sounds and dimming the display to help you drift off. Keep in my mind that if you sleep with a spouse or partner, only the person closest to the Nest Hub will have their sleep detected and analyzed. The device is calibrated to that user. If your partner wants to monitor their sleep, they’ll need to place their own Nest Hub on their side of the bed. It is unclear what effect sleeping with pets who tend to move around a lot might have on the sleep readings.


Owners of this second generation Nest Hub can enjoy a free preview of Sleep Sensing until next year, Google says, suggesting that some pay subscription model could be in the cards for people who want to continue tracking their Zzzz’s. Google is mum for now on that prospect. The company is examining ways to integrate with the sleep tracking features on Fitbit devices; Google completed its acquisition of Fitbit back in January.


To protect your privacy, Google says audio and raw Soli data is processed on the device, with only sleep event data sent to Google. You can also pause tracking and delete the previous night’s data.


You can wake up to Nest Hub too, with the display gradually brightening and the alarm subtly getting louder. If you're like me you might want to snooze a bit longer which you can do by waving your hand. (I have an Amazon Echo Spot next to my bed so I silence an alarm by asking Alexa.)


Otherwise, Nest Hub functions like other smart displays and its predecessor. You can check a family calendar, use the hub as digital picture frame, control lights and other smart home devices, listen to music, watch video, summon the help of the Google Assistant and more. It comes in four colors (chalk, charcoal, sand and mist).


Google points out that Nest Hub is not a medical device. A disclaimer reminds you that sensing is not intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, prevent or treat any disease or condition and that you should consult your healthcare professional should health questions arise.


I usually sleep pretty soundly, though I rarely seem to get quite enough snooze time. So, I’m looking forward to placing a Nest Hub on my nightstand and seeing if it will help me catch those few extra winks.


Email: edbaig@gmail.com; Follow @edbaig on Twitter

Photos courtesy of Google