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How the NBA’s smart rings are supposed to detect coronavirus

These rings could detect coronavirus up to three days in advance.

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As part of the NBA’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic while restarting their 2019-20 season, the league will give players and essential staff members the option to wear smart rings.

These rings, from Oura, will notify players if they’re within six feet of others and can potentially detect Covid-19 symptoms early. Having players wear this could feasibly reduce potential coronavirus cases while they play at Disney World. Since players will be able to explore the Orlando campus, attend movie screenings, NBA games, and enjoy the other hotel amenities throughout the duration of the NBA season, it’s important for everyone to keep a safe distance. The NBA thinks these rings could help.

Oura rings were initially marketed as sleep trackers with the ability to monitor heart rate and body temperature, but the company is hoping to use those metrics to develop ways to identify Covid-19.

2,000 medical workers a the University of California, San Francisco were given the rings and completed daily surveys in order for researchers to analyze the health data from the rings. People who already owned a ring were also given the option to join in the study. According to UCSF’s website, the purpose of the study is to “observe associations between dermal body temperature, heart rate, and related metrics, and the onset of symptoms such as fever, cough, and fatigue, which can characterize COVID-19.”

Though the university’s website does not explicitly state this, Oura notes that the ring company is sponsoring the research. As of June, UCSF has not released its findings from its study, though Oura’s homepage notes that the product is “of particular interest to the researchers.”

West Virginia Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute held its own study, finding that the Oura Ring is able to predict Covid-19 up to thee days in advance with 90% accuracy. It should be noted that the study was conducted in conjunction with Oura Health, which is simply another name for the ring company based in Oulu, Finland and in San Francisco. West Virginia’s article about the study also includes a quote from Oura Health’s CEO Harpreet Rai. At the very least, West Virginia’s study should be seen with some skepticism given the conflict of interest.

In the event that an NBA player still contracts Covid-19, then, according to NBA reporter Shams Charania, they must immediately isolate themselves in a separate location in Disney World. They must then retest to confirm the positive test. And once they feel better, they can exit isolation and resume normal play after consecutive negative tests.

So if you’re watching the NBA season and catch your favorite players all wearing the same ring, this is why. If you’re interested in buying one of these smart rings, you can get your own for $299.