Oura is adding a new community feature to its smart sleep tracking ring. Starting today, you’ll now be able to create or join “Circles,” which are private groups where you can share readiness, sleep, and activity scores from the past two weeks. The company is also finally moving its new sleep staging algorithm out of beta for both iOS and Android users — though you may or may not like what it has to tell you.
Any user can create an Oura Circle and invite others to join via a shared link, provided the person you’re inviting is also an Oura member. When creating or joining a Circle, you can also customize what data gets shared. For example, if you’d rather that Judgy John from Accounting didn’t see your activity score, you don’t have to share it but can still share your sleep and readiness scores. You can also choose whether other members see daily scores or opt for weekly averages only. In both instances, the data spans the past two weeks — it’s mostly what type of trend graph you see. Weekly averages will be flatter, while daily scores will look more squiggly because there are more data points. If you’re so inclined, you can also react to other people’s scores with emoji, but that’s about as far as interactivity goes.
Meanwhile, Oura users will also begin seeing a switch to the new sleep staging algorithm as it moves out of beta. Technically, it’s been around for a while, but you had the option of toggling it on or off as it wasn’t the final version just yet. Oura says the new algorithm “achieves 79 percent agreement with gold-standard polysomnography” for wake, light, deep, and REM sleep. The jury is out on sleep tracker accuracy, but in the digital wellness space, Oura has a good reputation for doing clinical research. It published its research on the new algorithm in the peer-reviewed Sensors journal last year and says it was developed using two years of data spanning 500 participants ranging in age, gender, and skin tone. Keep in mind, however, you will see a slight shift in your data. The new algorithm, for instance, tells me I wake up a lot more often than the original one did.
I have no friends who regularly use the Oura Ring. Sob.Screenshot: Victoria Song / The Verge
Whether Circles takes off, however, is murky. As a wearables reviewer, I’ve been a stalwart Oura user for years since I use it as my primary control device when testing sleep tracking features on other wearables. However, I went to create a Circle this morning and… had no one to invite and no way to search within the app for any contacts I might have who are Oura users.
It makes sense, as this is a $300 smart ring that comes with a monthly subscription. As you might imagine, the cost means the Oura Ring is still a niche device with primarily affluent users. The ring has been a buzzy gadget among celebrities for some time. That said, it gained more public awareness during the covid-19 pandemic, as many researchers used it to see whether wearables could detect covid before symptoms appeared. It was also the NBA’s wearable of choice in its covid prevention plans. More recently, Oura partnered with Best Buy to make its smart rings easier to buy for the average shopper.
Given the above, it’s unsurprising that Oura is choosing to add community features right now. Other wearable makers, like Samsung, have been making a point of beefing up their sleep tracking tech. Google has also been pushing sleep as part of its overall Pixel Watch messaging, especially since it leverages Fitbit’s excellent sleep tracking platform. Apple is still a ways behind, but it, too, has been making strides in this area. All of these devices have larger user bases and higher visibility among the average Joe than the Oura Ring — and can do more things since they have displays.