YOUR smart speaker could one day monitor your heartbeat as you go about your daily business at home.
US scientists have been working on a smart speaker system that could give your Amazon Alexa or Google Home the ability to spot irregular heartbeats.
Researchers created a prototype of the device that could be integrated into other smart speakersCredit: Mark Stone/University of Washington
Smart speakers could become contactless heart rate monitors with the AI-powered system.
Researchers designed a prototype that sends out sound waves we can’t hear to a person sitting nearby.
The waves bounce back off the person and are picked up by a sensor within the device that uses an algorithm to analyse them and count the time between heartbeats.
University of Washington researchers tested their device on healthy people and cardiac patients who were in hospital at the time.
One day smart speakers could monitor our health continuouslyCredit: Alamy
Their smart speaker was said to be just as good at detecting irregular heart beats as a medical-grade ECG monitor.
The researchers think this is the first time that a device has monitored regular and irregular heartbeats without physical contact with the patient.
The two algorithms used to detect and interpret a heartbeat are said to be similar to how Alexa identifies someone’s voice in a noisy environment.
Study co-author Shyam Gollakota explained: “When I say, Hey, Alexa, the microphones are working together to find me in the room and listen to what I say next.
“Thats basically whats happening here but with the heartbeat.”
A second algorithm then takes the signal and determines the time between heartbeats to check if it’s unusual or not.
Co-senior author Dr. Arun Sridhar added: “If you have a device like this, you can monitor a patient on an extended basis and define patterns that are individualized for the patient.
“For example, we can figure out when arrhythmias are happening for each specific patient and then develop corresponding care plans that are tailored for when the patients actually need them.
“This is the future of cardiology. And the beauty of using these kinds of devices is that they are already in peoples homes.”
The current system is only designed to do spot checks when asked but could be changed so it monitors heartbeats continuously.
The researchers think big smart speaker makers like Amazon or Google could integrate the tech into their own devices.
We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment.
If you’ve never heard of Alexa, here’s what you need to know…

  • Alexa is an “intelligent” personal assistant built by Amazon.
  • You can find her on several different devices, including Amazon’s Echo speakers.
  • Alexa responds to voice commands, and can talk back to you.
  • She can perform thousands of different tasks, including telling you about the news or weather.
  • But she can do more complex things too, like ordering a pizza or arranging an Uber taxi pick-up.
  • To activate Alexa, you need to say “Alexa” to an Amazon Echo speaker.
  • Alexa currently only works in English and German languages.
  • Because she’s powered by artificial intelligence, Alexa is constantly getting smarter.
  • Alexa will also get more used to your voice, and better understand what you want her to do over time.

New Alexa Jammer stops Amazon speaker listening in on your private conversations
In other news, Apple is quietly working on a “mixed-reality headset” to launch next year, insiders have claimed.
WhatsApp is having another go at getting all users to accept controversial new privacy terms.
And, a new feature for the Apple Find My app could let you know if someone is stalking you.
Do you know any smart speaker tricks? Let us know in the comments…
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