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Google made a major move into health research on Wednesday, unveiling a new smartphone app that lets Android users participate in medical studies remotely. The app, called Google Health Studies, could enable the tech giant to better position itself against competitor Apple, which has rolled out several remote research efforts since launching its first virtual health study in 2017.

Alongside the new app, Google launched a study of respiratory illnesses in partnership with Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. The research will examine the evolution and spread of diseases including Covid-19 and influenza, with particular attention on how participants’ demographics and behavior influence their likelihood of falling ill.


While the researchers’ initial ambitions include being better able to distinguish cases of Covid-19 from the flu — a sizable hurdle — they hope to use a similar research protocol to collect insights about future outbreaks of respiratory diseases.

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