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Smart Speakers could bring contactless health monitoring by detecting abnormal heart rhythms

By Prakhar Khanna March 9, 2021, 6:51 am

According to a new research done by University of Washington, ordinary smart speakers could be used as a contactless way to screen for irregular heartbeats. The researchers came up with an AI-powered system. It relies on sonar technology to pick up vibrations caused by nearby chest wall movements. It it ever comes to existence, it has the potential to change how doctors conduct telemedicine appointments by providing data that would otherwise require wearables, health hardware or an in-person checkup.

“We have Google and Alexa in our homes all around us. We predominantly use them to wake us up in the morning or play music,” said Shyam Gollakota, a UW computer science professor and co-author of the report. “The question we’ve been asking is, can we use the smart speaker for something more useful.” Smartphone makers could integrate the technology into existing products via software updates, researchers say.


As per the researchers, their goal was to find a way to use devices that people already have to edge cardiology and health monitoring into the future. This system has a mounted chest wall. If you want a reading, you will have to sit within two feet of the speaker for it to work.

It works by emitting audio signals into the room at a volume humans can’t hear. The pulses bounce back to the speaker, and an algorithm works to identify beating patterns generated from a human’s chest wall. Another algorithm is then applied to determine the amount of time between two heartbeats. These inter-beat intervals could allow doctors to gauge how well your heart is functioning.

This data was compared to results from medical-grade ECG monitors. Surprisingly, the smart speakers’ readings turned out to be relatively accurate, only deviating from the ECG readings by an amount that “wasn’t medically relevant,” the researchers say. The test was done on a developer version of Alexa with a low-quality speaker to run their tests. Hence, speakers in mainstream devices could be more powerful, which could enable readings from farther away.

Via: The Washington Post


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