Scientists have developed a new smart speaker system that could turn the Amazon Echo and Google Home into contactless heart rate monitors.
The AI-powered system sends inaudible sounds from the speakers to a person sitting nearby.
As they bounce, algorithms analyze sound waves to determine heart rate.
Researchers at the University of Washington tested the device on healthy people and hospitalized heart patients. They found that the smart speaker detected their heartbeats almost as well as medical grade ECG monitors.
The team says this is the first time that regular and irregular heartbeats can be monitored without physical contact.
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The system uses two different algorithms. The first analyzes the signals from all the microphones in the smart speaker to find the heartbeat.
Study co-author Shyam Gollakota said it sounded like how Alexa identifies a user’s voice in a noisy room:
When I say “Hey, Alexa,” the microphones work together to find me in the room and listen to what I’m saying next. That’s basically what’s going on here, but with the heartbeat.
A second algorithm then segments the signal to determine the time between two heart beats.
The system is currently in place for spot checks by a person concerned about their heartbeat. But it could be adapted to continuously monitor patients for signs of sleep apnea or heart emergencies.
The likes of Amazon and Google could also integrate the software into their smart speakers. My only concern is that the pirates could access the system to determine if I am at home before robbing the place.
Published March 9, 2021 – 13:16 UTC