Smart speakers can now screen irregular heartbeats: UW researchers

Researchers at the University of Washington have claimed to develop a contactless way of analyzing irregular heartbeats via ordinary smart speakers

With technological disruptions taking a toll in the healthcare and medical industry, researchers of University of Washington have come up with a new development in this field- an AI-based system to screen irregular heartbeats using an ordinary smart speaker.

As per official sources, the system is powered by an AI which relies on the SONAR technology to pick up vibrations caused by chest wall movements. If deployed, the technology is likely to enhance the way in which medical professionals conduct telemedicine appointments by providing data that would otherwise require health hardware, wearables, or an in-person checkup.

The goal behind this novel development was to carve out a way to make use of devices that people already have, to edge health and cardiology monitoring into the future.

The system works by producing audio signals into a room at a volume which is inaudible to humans. As the pulses bounce back to the speaker system, an algorithm works to analyze the beating patterns generated from a human’s chest walls. The second algorithm is then applied to identify the amount of time between two heartbeats. The data, thus generated, would help doctors gauge how well the heart functions.

For the record, the smart speaker research project commenced in 2019 but was halted due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers made use of a developer version of Alexa with low-quality speaker to run these tests, allowing them to conclude that speakers in mainstream devices could be highly powerful generating reading even from farther away.

Speaking of the research development, UW CS professor and Co-Author of the research report, Shyam Gollakota cited that given the rising prominence of Google and Alexa in homes, analysts decided on using smart speakers for something even more useful. He added that smart speaker makers could now integrate this newly developed technology into existing products via software updates, to help people keep a regular check on their health.

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