Moody Blues? Apps Track Mental Health Markers Through Voice Cues


From Fitbit to Apple Health to Google Fit, consumers have plenty of ways to measure physical health on a regular basis, be it steps, calories burned, or heart minutes (minutes spent by a person with an elevated heart rate during exercise).

But what about mental health indicators like, stress, energy and mood?

A startup called Galvan has teamed with Canary Speech -- founded by Jeff Adams, who previously led Amazon’s Alexa development team -- to launch an app that uses AI to measure mental health conditions through user voice recordings.

The app, similarly named Galvan, relies on the user providing a 20-second voice recording. After some 10 seconds of AI analyzing 2,500 vocal data points (or biomarkers) every 10 milliseconds -- or over a million total -- Galvan shoots back measurements of stress, mood and energy.



Sonde Mental Fitness, a two-year-old app that also uses vocal biomarkers, explains how this is possible by pointing out that depression, for example, impacts how people speak.

Depression can be marked by speech that is “generally more monotone, flatter and softer,” while anxious people “tend to speak faster. They have more difficulty breathing,” Maria Espinola, a psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, told The New York Times.

“A scant but growing number of scientific studies support claims that voice biomarkers can help screen” for an assortment of conditions, according to Axios.

 A third app, Kintsugi, also measures mental health with vocal biomarkers.

We asked Nathan Covey, Galvan’s vice president of marketing, what’s different about the latest entry in this field.

By providing three specific measurements, he says, Galvan can “offer better personalized results and suggestions [for self-care and wellness practices], depending on what the person is feeling that day.”

Also, Covey continues, “Our app combines mental with physical [by connecting with such devices as Fitbit and Apple Watch]. “We know that one of the best 'medicines' for your mind is exercise, so we have incorporated the ability to track your physical activity in our app as well.”

Then there are Galvan’s rewards. “This is a big one,” Covey says. “A lot of people know they should take better care of their physical and mental health, but they sometimes lack the motivation to do so. The Galvan App rewards you with cryptocurrency, ‘IZE,’ when you do your wellness check-in, exercise, etc. This provides an extra motivation for people to make healthy choices.”

I downloaded all three apps and then tested Galvan for my own daily “AI wellness check in.”

The voice feature, it turned out, is only available on a paid version of the app. For an annual subscription that costs $99 a year, you also get a seven-day free trial. So, I subscribed.

Over the course of a week, here’s what I discovered about myself:

No matter what I was going through emotionally, my stress level never changed (instead of telling you that any particular measurement is low or high, Galvan relies on an “average normal range” for each user. As an introductory video puts it, “everyone has different energy, moods and stress levels naturally. And Just because you may be high on this general meter doesn’t mean that’s bad for you.”)

My mood level was as constant as my stress level, except for one day when it plummeted: I had spoken to Galvan immediately after getting off a long phone call with a very boring person.

My energy level wavered a bit from day to day, peaking during the weekend when I wasn’t stuck in a chair working most of the time.

If I had kept on with Galvan past my free trial, I also would have been able to “earn digital rewards when you make healthy decisions and reach your goals.”

These rewards of IZE currency will be usable to purchase items from a “wellness marketplace” later this year. Right now, they can only be traded for other cryptocurrencies, Covey says.

Another perk for paid membership will be access to an exclusive Galvan community on the Discord social platform, which will provide one-on-one chats as well as giveaways, Covey says.

Paid advertising and influencer marketing plans are also underway, he adds. Media will include Facebook and Instagram, with the target audience being men and women 20-35 with interests in both mental health and AI. A sample ad shared with Pharma & Health Insider is headlined “test your mental health with AI” and shows a screen with energy, mood and stress results of a “wellness check in”.

Galvan is pending Food and Drug Administration approval as a medical device.


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