Amazon Halo health tracker sounds superior, but additionally like a Black Mirror episode


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Amazon has entered the well being and health world with Halo, a subscription service and accompanying health band that unlocks an array of well being metrics, together with exercise, sleep, physique fats and tone of voice evaluation, to find out the way you sound to others. Amazon’s entry into the health area is odd certainly, and bold. And we’re simply getting our minds wrapped round it. 

The band itself appears to be like lots like a screenless Fitbit tracker, however with a number of totally different parts: It has temperature sensing, very similar to Fitbit’s latest smartwatch, the Fitbit Sense, and a microphone that regularly scans a wearer’s voice to find out emotional tone. Sure, it is lots to absorb. And the service is instantly obtainable for early entry. We have not even had an opportunity to attempt it out but. 

The membership half will begin at $65 for the primary six months ($100 as soon as the early entry deal is over) after which $3.99 a month after that. (Worldwide costs aren’t at present obtainable, however $65 converts to about £50 or AU$90.) The subscription to Halo contains the essential health band that has one button, no display screen and tracks your coronary heart fee, steps and temperature. The shortage of display screen means you may should depend on the cellular app to see all of your information, however it does much more than simply rely your steps and log your weight. 

A tone-analyzing, Amazon well being band that additionally allows you to scan your physique fats might sound like Black Mirror incarnate, however it’s additionally opening up some concepts in health that we have by no means seen earlier than.


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Amazon’s Halo takes health monitoring to new and uncomfortable…



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Physique fats evaluation with a smartphone digital camera 

Amazon thinks the idea of weight reduction is flawed, and that physique fats is a a lot better predictor of well being.

Most of us have been conditioned to obsess over our weight. The whole eating regimen trade was constructed on it with applications, apps and units that revolve round methods to lose kilos. 

However weight can fluctuate day by day primarily based on components together with humidity, remedy, menstrual cycle and sickness. Plus muscle is extra dense than fats, and a scale cannot inform the distinction between the 2. You possibly can actually work your ass off constructing muscle and burning fats, and never see the numbers on the dimensions go down.

Moderately than counting on weight, Halo focuses on physique fats proportion, which is much less unstable and takes much more time and work to vary. 

The gold commonplace within the medical world for physique composition evaluation is a DEXA scan (dual-energy absorptiometry), which might price as much as $100 at a lab. The Halo app does all of it utilizing your smartphone digital camera. As soon as you’re taking your pictures, the app mechanically eliminates all the pieces else within the background, calculates physique fats % primarily based on physique indicators, after which creates a 3D mannequin of your physique, which is each cool and terrifying. The app requires you to put on minimal form-fitting clothes and belief Amazon to take an image of you carrying it. The whole course of takes seconds. 

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Amazon’s Halo app makes a 3D render of your physique to investigate physique fats, whereas the health band retains tabs on sleep and exercise. 


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In case you’re feeling uncomfortable, that is not shocking: The concept of body-scanning with a digital camera is already an ungainly proposition. Amazon doing this on a well being platform makes it really feel extra so. The pattern body-scan photographs Amazon confirmed me look very private — not essentially one thing I might ever need anybody else to see.

That is why Amazon guarantees that the completed physique scans keep in your cellphone and will not be shared with anyone, together with the corporate, until you choose into that. In response to Amazon, “the pictures are processed within the cloud, however encrypted in transit and processed inside seconds, after which they’re mechanically deleted from Amazon’s programs and databases. All scan photographs are absolutely deleted inside 12 hours. The scan photographs aren’t considered by anybody at Amazon and are not used for machine studying optimizations.”

Watch that tone! 

Halo additionally gives a Tone evaluation, which has nothing to do with physique tone, however reasonably analyzes the nuances of your voice to color an image of the way you sound to others. It might probably let you already know while you’ve sounded out of line, weirdly sufficient. 

The health band has two built-in mics to seize audio and it listens for emotional cues. The corporate says it is not meant to investigate the content material of your dialog, simply the tone of your supply. It takes periodic samples of your speech all through the day when you choose in to the characteristic. You allow the microphones by tapping the aspect button and you may know when the mic is off when a pink LED lights up on the band. 

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Amazon

The voice scanning pulls out the wearer’s particular voice in conversations and delivers evaluation with associated emotional-tone phrases (like “joyful,” or “involved” within the Halo app). The concept, in accordance with Amazon, is to assist information you to ship higher tones of voice and talking kinds, like a vocal type of good posture. It is not meant as a type of psychological evaluation, however it appears awfully onerous to attract the road on an idea like this. 

Amazon’s been exploring the thought of emotional tone-sensing since a minimum of 2018, however that is the primary time it is approached the thought in any system. And in accordance with Amazon, the Tone characteristic is just obtainable on the Halo band for now. Will probably be restricted to the band’s microphone, however Amazon sounds open to exploring the thought on different units, relying on how the early entry response goes from first-wave wearers. It is a very odd factor to placed on a health band, and we don’t know what that is like to make use of but.

Amazon guarantees that Tone voice samples are encrypted and saved solely on a wearer’s cellphone (shared from the band through Bluetooth with the encrypted key), are deleted after evaluation and will not be shared to the cloud or used to construct machine-learning fashions.

Sleep evaluation with temperature monitoring

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The sleep evaluation features a physique temperature to detect variations which will affect sleep. 


Amazon

The app gives a complete sleep evaluation with a breakdown of the totally different levels of sleep and total sleep rating, very similar to different health trackers. It additionally goes past the fundamentals by conserving observe of your total physique temperature throughout sleep and making a baseline for every particular person. It then charts your common temperature every evening relative to your baseline that will help you determine variations that might have an effect on your well being and the standard of your sleep. 

The Halo band will not present a selected physique temperature, much like the way in which different temperature wearable units just like the Oura Ring already work.

Temperature has change into a trending wearable metric within the COVID-19 period: The Oura Ring has one and Fitbit’s latest Sense watch has one too. Amazon’s Halo group is pursuing analysis for COVID-19 symptom detection on its wearables, very similar to different well being wearable firms, however no particular research or plans have been laid out but.

Exercise monitoring: Per week at a look 

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The exercise app is predicated on a weekly level system. 


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Halo additionally does fundamental health monitoring primarily based on the knowledge from the band. It might probably mechanically observe walks and runs, however you may have to enter the app and tag another exercises manually. 

It rewards you for any sort of motion or exercise, however offers extra factors for extra intense exercises and subtracts factors for sedentary time. And it does not maintain a day by day tally of your exercise, your rating is predicated on the factors you accrued throughout the whole week. The whole image of train, sedentary time and energetic time is mixed into one tally.

Amazon’s sleep and exercise scores and different AI instruments would require an Amazon Halo subscription; in any other case, the band will default to extra fundamental monitoring information. Very like Fitbit and its Premium service, this appears to be like to be persevering with a pattern of health units that count on a subscription mannequin as a part of the bundle.

A variety of labs and companions, however no Google or Apple integration

A Labs part of Amazon Halo appears to be like much like what’s on Fitbit’s Premium service, with quite a lot of multiweek well being and health targets to choose into, and companions lined up from OrangeTheory to Weight Watchers. Amazon guarantees these challenges are scientifically vetted, however it additionally feels like these challenges will maintain being added to over time. 

However a minimum of at launch, Halo is not going to tie in to Apple’s HealthKit or Google’s Match App which places it at a drawback with people who find themselves already deeply invested in both for well being monitoring. Amazon is leaning on Weight Watchers, John Hancock Vitality wellness program, and some others that may have the ability to hook into Amazon Halo well being information.

The looming privateness query

There’s quite a lot of course of by way of options, and whereas some appear attention-grabbing and modern, the most important barrier to entry is privateness. Sharing any form of well being information (not to mention unflattering seminudes) requires next-level belief, and also you won’t be ready to provide Amazon that belief. The corporate does not precisely have essentially the most pristine observe document in terms of conserving person information personal. Alexa-enabled units have been within the sizzling seat for storing personal conversations “for machine studying functions.” And Amazon’s Ring doorbell has had a collection of privateness dust-ups. 

Halo places privateness in your palms by permitting you to choose out of information sharing with Amazon and third-party apps in addition to disable the microphone on the band, however it’s nonetheless going to be an uphill battle. That’s until its options show to be earth-shattering and well worth the privateness threat, which stays to be seen.

Amazon is late on arrival

The shortage of connection to Apple or Google is telling. Amazon’s making a play within the well being and health information area, and with Google, Fitbit and Apple already deep in, it is a huge query as to how Amazon will make waves. Or, the place Amazon Halo will go subsequent. It is a platform as a lot as a wearable, and it feels like Halo’s early-access experiment may be the tip of the iceberg.



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