Researchers develop system for smart speakers like Amazon Echo to monitor heartbeats
You might soon have a new use for your Amazon Echo, Google Home or other smart speaker: checking your heart for irregular rhythms.
Researchers at the University of Washington have developed an artificial intelligence system using smart speakers to monitor your heartbeat without requiring physical contact.
Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Communications Biology.
The study had people sit 1 to 2 feet from a smart speaker, which starts playing an inaudible continuous sound. The sound then bounces off the person and back to the speaker, where the AI system is able to detect individual heartbeats.
In effect, the speaker becomes a “short-range active sonar system,” the report says.
Co-author Dr. Dan Nguyen, a clinical instructor at the University of Washington's School of Medicine, uses a smart speaker prototype capable of monitoring individual heartbeats. (Photo: Mark Stone, University of Washington)
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The algorithm used by the smart speaker combines signals from the microphones to find the heartbeat, similarly to how speakers are able to find your voice if you’re in a crowded room, researchers say.
“When I say, ‘Hey, Alexa,’ the microphones are working together to find me in the room and listen to what I say next,” said Shyam Gollakota, a co-senior author of the study and associate professor in the university’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, in a statement. “That’s basically what’s happening here but with the heartbeat.”
In tests, the speaker was able to detect heartbeats closely matching standard heartbeat monitors in both healthy people and hospitalized cardiac patients, the study found.
Dr. Arun Sridhar, assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine and co-senior author of the study, said heart rhythm disorders are more common than other heart conditions, but are difficult to detect because they’re unpredictable.
“Availability of a low-cost test that can be performed frequently and at the convenience of home can be a game-changer for certain patients in terms of early diagnosis and management,” he said.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.
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