Scientists have developed a new smart speaker system that can turn Amazon Echo and Google Home into non-contact heart rate monitors. The AI system transmits silent sounds from speakers to a person sitting nearby. When they bounce off it, algorithms analyze the sound waves to determine the heart rate.
Researchers from the University of Washington tested the device in healthy people and hospitalized cardiac patients. They found that the smart speaker recorded their heartbeats almost as well as ECG monitors.
The system uses two different algorithms. The first analyzes the signals from all microphones of the smart speakers to find the heartbeat. Study co-author Shyam Gollakota noted that this is similar to how Alexa identifies a user’s voice in a noisy room.
The second algorithm segments the signal to determine the amount of time between heart beats.
So far, the system is configured to spot check users who are concerned about their heart rate. But it can be adapted to monitor patients continuously for signs of sleep apnea or emergency heart attacks.
Companies like Amazon and Google can also integrate software into their smart speakers.