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Oura launches new social, sleep features as health tracker market continues to grow

Oura, the company behind the smart ring that allows users to track a variety of biometric data, is adding new features around social sharing and sleep tracking as the battle among tech companies to land and keep trackers on the wrists and fingers of consumers continues.

The company’s new community-sharing feature, which it calls Circles, allows ring wearers to create private groups where they can share readiness, sleep, and activity scores.

Oura CEO Tom Hale said that the feature is not about competition like other more fitness-focused tracking devices or platforms might offer, but instead it’s about “support and empathy.”

“It’s really about sharing your data, your scores, your readiness, your sleep, with your close, intimate friends, family, your trainer, your doctor; maybe it’s a husband checking in on a wife or maybe it’s your team collecting the data comparing each other,” Hale said to CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin on “Squawk Box” on Thursday.

Hale noted that the data being shared is “only shared with the people that you want to share with. It’s not like a social feature where you’re posting your scores to Twitter, although frankly, some people do that.”

“This is about creating a small, intimate group of empathy and support,” he said.

A closeup of Oura’s Gen3 Horizon ring and its sensors.

Oura

Added feature comes at a time when “chronic loneliness is a public health crisis,” Hale said, adding that sharing this data set could help “create a physiological set of data that allows you to understand if someone really is having a bad day, they’re not just saying it; their body is telling them.”

It also comes as the race among tech companies to bolster their wearable devices with more features and functionality is increasing as consumers focus more on the health and exercise measurements that these devices highlight.

At Apple‘s 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this week, the company announced several new health-related features for the Apple Watch, including tracking features for both mental and vision health, in addition to new cycling and hiking capabilities. That builds upon features it added to the Apple Watch 8 last fall, which included a new temperature sensor that better tracks sleep metrics.

Samsung also added new temperature sensors to its Galaxy watch to track sleep as well, and Garmin and Alphabet‘s Fitbit have also boosted their devices’ capabilities around sleep and readiness.

Oura, which broke into the wearables market largely as a sleep tracker, is rolling out a new sleep staging algorithm which the company says is in 79% agreement with polysomnography — the measurement of brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, and heart rate and breathing during sleep, as well as eye and leg movements — for 4-stage sleep classification, which includes wake, light, deep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Hale said the enhanced algorithm is “the largest dataset of sleep in existence.”

By tracking these various stages, the Oura app provides a variety of scores and areas for improvement.

“It’s not just about the quantity of sleep, but the quality, high-quality sleep, and that will make a difference in your cognition,” Hale said.

Oura, a two-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company that ranked No. 33 on the 2023 list, has looked to get its rings onto more hands through added features, as well as a variety of partnerships. Last year, Oura partnered with Gucci for a $950 luxury version of its ring and recently announced a deal with Best Buy to be its first U.S.-based large-scale retail partnership, putting its rings in more than 850 stores across the country. It also launched an employer-focused wellness arm in February, aiming to work with companies, schools, sports organizations, and the military around health goals for their employees.

It sold its millionth ring in March 2022, the last time it provided a unit sales figure.

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