Commentary

Amazon's New Fitness Tracker Tells You When You're Feeling Happy

Amazon is getting into the fitness-tracker arena with a device that not only tells you your heart rate and measures your body fat percentage, but also tells you how good you’re feeling about life in general.

“The Amazon Halo Band is a small, screen-free, wrist-worn doohickey, which is light and unobtrusive. You put it on and forget about it, wearing it 24 hours a day so it can monitor sleep as well as waking hours. The lack of a screen or any notifications, which will frustrate some and excite others, is because it’s there to focus on health and wellness, not to disturb you,” David Phelan writes  for Forbes.

It’s also cheaper than some similar devices.

“The Amazon Halo is available for pre-order for $64.99, a savings from the eventual $99.99 price point. This price includes six months of a monthly Halo membership. The membership will auto-renew at a price of $3.99 per month,” Benzinga’s Chris Katje writes  for Yahoo Finance.

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“Halo will assign a point system based on activities rather than just listing steps and calories burned, with input from the American Heart Association. The Amazon Halo will be the first to offer a tone feature, detecting mood and attitude through two microphones,” Katje continues.

“The e-commerce giant said the Halo app could monitor its users’ social and emotional well-being under the ‘Tone’ feature by analyzing voice, offering insights into their ‘energy and positivity.’ Users would also be able to consult the app for workouts and healthy habits, supported by content from Amazon as well as 8fit, Harvard Health Publishing, Mayo Clinic and other sources,” Dave Sebastian writes  for The Wall Street Journal.

CNN Business’ Kaya Yurieff posits  that Amazon “wants to creep into even more sensitive areas of its customers’ lives” with the device although she reports that “Amazon executives emphasized the privacy controls behind the feature, including that speech samples are processed only on your phone -- never in the cloud -- and will be deleted automatically after processing.”

“The ‘Tone’ feature, which people must opt-in to, uses small mics on the band and machine learning to analyze your voice to predict how other people might perceive your tone. The technology takes into account pitch, intensity, tempo and rhythm, to create timestamps of your speech with labels such as ‘content’ or ‘hesitant’ as well as positivity and energy levels. Amazon said users never hear their voice snippets; they just see the results of the analysis on the app,” she writes.

“The idea of a device picking up snippets of your voice and judging it may feel like a dystopian scene from ‘Black Mirror,’ especially at a time when Americans are concerned and confused about the handling of their personal data,” Yurieff adds.

“It’s a departure for Amazon’s hardware business, which has previously focused on in-home devices, such as the Echo smart speakers and the Fire TV streaming video devices. Amazon showed off some wearable devices at its annual hardware event last fall, including wireless headphones and a set of glasses with built-in access to the Alexa voice assistant. But Halo is its first real shot at capturing a piece of the fast-growing wearables market, which Gartner last year estimated would top $50 billion in 2020,” writes  CNBC’s Christina Farr.

“The company has spent several years preparing. Amazon’s Melissa Cha, a vice president at Halo, said the company already had expertise around machine learning and computer vision, but expanding into health required a whole new set of hires,” Farr adds.

“It makes sense that Amazon wants to push into health. This year, in particular, tech companies are trying to transition their body-worn devices from fitness trackers into health and wellness assistants. Earlier this week, Fitbit launched a new $330 smartwatch called the Sense that includes a temperature sensor, an electrocardiogram app and an electrodermal activity sensor to detect the body’s response to stress. In September, Apple is expected to unveil a new version of its Watch with more health bells and whistles,” Geoffrey A. Fowler writes for The Washington Post.

"The makers of Fitbits, Oura Rings and other wearables also have been participating in clinical studies to see whether the data they gather can be used to predict the onset of coronavirus symptoms before patients even realize they’re sick,” Fowler adds.

It does not, however, purport to accurately predict election results. Yet.

1 comment about "Amazon's New Fitness Tracker Tells You When You're Feeling Happy".
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  1. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, August 31, 2020 at 3:27 p.m.

    Thom ! What a fabulous way to say good bye. You'll be missed here. Good luck keeping more of us ancients breathing, laughing, thinking - living.

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