The Download: how to improve pulse oximeters, and OpenAI’s chip plans


Visit any health-care facility, and one of the first things they’ll do is clip a pulse oximeter to your finger. These devices, which track heart rate and blood oxygen, offer vital information about a person’s health.

But they’re also flawed. For people with dark skin, pulse oximeters can overestimate just how much oxygen their blood is carrying. That means that a person with dangerously low oxygen levels might seem, according to the pulse oximeter, fine.

The US Food and Drug Administration is still trying to figure out what to do about this problem. Last week, an FDA advisory committee met to mull over better ways to evaluate the performance of these devices in people with a variety of skin tones. But engineers have been thinking about this problem too. Cassandra Willyard has dug into why they are biased and what technological fixes might be possible. Take a look at what she found out.

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly biotech and health newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 OpenAI is planning to turn the chip industry on its head
By sinking trillions of dollars into an ambitious new project. (WSJ $)
+ AMD also has plans to break Nvidia’s chip chokehold. (Economist $)
+ OpenAI’s COO is molding the startup into a commercial powerhouse. (Bloomberg $)
+ The company has hurtled past the $2 billion revenue mark. (FT $)
+ Why China is betting big on chiplets. (MIT Technology Review)

2 US regulators have outlawed AI-generated robocalls
In a bid to get ahead of audio deepfakes disrupting the Presidential election. (AP News)
+ That doesn’t mean the calls won’t keep coming, though. (TechCrunch)
+ Iranian hackers infiltrated UAE streaming services with a deepfake newsreader. (The Guardian)

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