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Google's Pixel Watch can now detect if you fall: How to turn it on

Google insists the new fall detection feature will avoid false alarms, 'thanks to our machine learning algorithms and rigorous testing.'
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer
pixel watch fall detection feature
Image: ZDNET / Stephanie Condon

Google on Tuesday announced that it's rolling out a new fall detection feature for the Google Pixel Watch, giving users a new safety feature that can help them reach emergency services if they've fallen and need help. 

The new fall detection feature will help Google's relatively new Pixel Watch match the capabilities found on the popular Apple Watch. Coming just a few weeks after reports that the Apple Watch's crash detection features are causing headaches for first responders, Google insists that its new fall detection feature will avoid false alarms.

Also: Google Pixel Watch review: Google's time to shine

"Your Pixel Watch knows the difference between taking a hard fall and performing a vigorous physical activity or even quickly recovering from a small stumble -- thanks to our machine learning algorithms and rigorous testing," Google product managers Paras Unadkat and Edward Shi wrote in a blog post. 

The Pixel Watch's fall detection feature relies on built-in motion sensors and on-device machine learning to sense when you've falling down. If you don't move or respond, the feature will call emergency services. 

Here's more on how it works. When the feature detects a fall, it will wait for you to get back up. If you don't move for about 30 seconds, your watch will vibrate and sound an alarm. An on-screen notification will ask you to either tap "I'm OK" or "I fell & need help." If you tap the latter, you'll be connected to emergency services.

If you don't respond, the alarm will continue for about a minute, getting louder in the final few seconds. At that point, your watch will automatically attempt to call emergency services and play an automated message that requests help to wherever you are. The watch also gives you the opportunity to speak to the emergency operator yourself.

To activate the feature, go the "Updates" page on the Watch Companion app, or to the Personal Safety app directly on the Pixel Watch. You must grant location permission for the feature to share your location with emergency responders. 

While the feature is rolling out now, it's not available in all countries -- and its functionality depends on factors like network connectivity. To call emergency services on a Google Pixel Watch without 4G LTE, your paired phone needs to be nearby. 

Also: Forget Apple Watch: Here are the best smartwatches for Android users

To ensure the feature doesn't deliver false alarms, Google says it trained its algorithms on "a broad variety of human and simulated fall data and other motion patterns to accurately detect real falls." Google also tested the feature against activities like burpees, jumping and swimming -- high-energy activities that create movements similar to falling. The company also worked with emergency dispatch services to develop the automated messages the features deliver.

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