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Earbud-Based Sensor for the Assessment of Energy Expenditure, HR, and V˙O2max


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2014 - Volume 46 - Issue 5 - p 1046–1052
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000183
Applied Sciences

Introduction/Purpose The goal of this program was to determine the feasibility of a novel noninvasive, highly miniaturized optomechanical earbud sensor for accurately estimating total energy expenditure (TEE) and maximum oxygen consumption (V˙O2max). The optomechanical sensor module, small enough to fit inside commercial audio earbuds, was previously developed to provide a seamless way to measure blood flow information during daily life activities. The sensor module was configured to continuously measure physiological information via photoplethysmography and physical activity information via accelerometry. This information was digitized and sent to a microprocessor where digital signal-processing algorithms extract physiological metrics in real time. These metrics were streamed wirelessly from the earbud to a computer.

Methods In this study, 23 subjects of multiple physical habitus were divided into a training group of 14 subjects and a validation group of 9 subjects. Each subject underwent the same exercise measurement protocol consisting of treadmill-based cardiopulmonary exercise testing to reach V˙O2max. Benchmark sensors included a 12-lead ECG sensor for measuring HR, a calibrated treadmill for measuring distance and speed, and a gas-exchange analysis instrument for measuring TEE and V˙O2max. The earbud sensor was the device under test. Benchmark and device under test data collected from the 14-person training data set study were integrated into a preconceived statistical model for correlating benchmark data with earbud sensor data. Coefficients were optimized, and the optimized model was validated in the 9-person validation data set.

Results It was observed that the earbud sensor estimated TEE and V˙O2max with mean ± SD percent estimation errors of −0.7 ± 7.4% and −3.2 ± 7.3%, respectively.

Conclusion The earbud sensor can accurately estimate TEE and V˙O2max during cardiopulmonary exercise testing.

1Valencell, Inc., Raleigh, NC; and 2Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC

Address for correspondence: Steven Francis LeBoeuf, Ph.D., Valencell, Inc., 2800-154 Sumner Blvd., Raleigh, NC 27616; E-mail:

Submitted for publication March 2013.

Accepted for publication October 2013.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine