Researchers: Smart Speakers Are Listening so Carefully They Can Detect an Irregular Heartbeat

Jeff Bezos arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Researchers at the University of Washington have reportedly found a new way to screen for irregular heartbeats — using smart speakers such as the Amazon Alexa or Google Home to detect variations in heart rhythms.

The Washington Post reports that researchers at the University of Washington claim to have developed a contactless way to screen for irregular heartbeats using smart speakers. The analysts have reportedly developed an AI-powered system that harnesses consumer smart speakers like Amazon and Google’s products to pick up vibrations caused by nearby chest wall movements.

The heart-tracking technology could be used to enhance how doctors and medical professionals conduct telemedicine appointments by giving them data that would otherwise require wearable health trackers or an in-person checkup.

Researchers aimed to use devices that people already had access to in order to push cardiology and health monitoring into the future, said Arun Sridhar, a UW assistant professor of cardiology.

Shyam Gollakota, a computer science professor at UW and co-author of the new report, stated: “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. The question we’ve been asking is, can we use the smart speaker for something more useful.”

Researchers believe that smart speaker manufacturers could integrate the new heartbeat tracking features into their products via software updates. The system works by emitting audio signals into the room at a volume that humans cannot hear, as the pulse bounces back to the speaker an algorithm then identifies beating patterns generated from a human’s chest wall. A second algorithm then determines the amount of time between two heartbeats.

This information, called inter-beat intervals, could help doctors gauge how well an individual’s heart is functioning. Researchers trained the smart speakers to pick up regular and irregular heart rhythms.

Read more at the Washington Post here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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