With Halo, Amazon’s entry into the fitness space is ambitious, but strange

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Amazon has entered the world of health and fitness with Halo, a subscription service and accompanying fitness group that unlocks an array of health metrics including activity, sleep, body fat. and tone of voice analysis to determine how you talk to others. Amazon’s entry into the fitness space is indeed strange and ambitious. And we’re just focusing on that.

The band itself looks a lot like a Fitbit tracker without a display, but with a few different elements: it has temperature sensing, just like Fitbit’s latest smartwatch, the Fitbit Senseand a microphone that continually scans the wearer’s voice to determine emotional tone. Yes, that’s a lot to take. And the service is immediately available for early access. We haven’t even had a chance to try it yet.

The membership portion will start at $ 65 for the first six months ($ 100 after the early access agreement ends) and then $ 3.99 per month after that. (International pricing isn’t currently available, but $ 65 converts to around £ 50 or AU $ 90.) Halo membership includes the basic fitness band which has a button, no display and tracks your frequency. heart rate, steps and temperature. The lack of a screen means you’ll have to rely on the mobile app to see all of your data, but it does a lot more than just count your steps and record your weight.

An Amazon health group that analyzes tone and also allows you to analyze your body fat may look like Black mirror embodied, but it also opens up some fitness ideas we’ve never seen before.


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Amazon’s Halo Brings Fitness Tracking Again and Uncomfortable …

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Analysis of body fat with a smartphone camera

Amazon believes the concept of weight loss is flawed, and that body fat is a much better predictor of health.

Most of us have been conditioned to be obsessed with our weight. The whole food industry has been built on it with programs, apps, and devices that revolve around ways to lose weight.

But the weight can fluctuate daily depending on factors like humidity, medications, menstrual cycle, and illness. Plus, muscle is denser than fat, and a scale can’t tell the difference between the two. You could literally work your ass building muscle and burning fat, and not see the numbers on the scale go down.

Rather than relying on weight, Halo focuses on body fat percentage, which is less volatile and takes a lot more time and work to change.

The gold standard in the medical world for analyzing body composition is a DEXA (dual energy absorptiometry) scan, which can cost up to $ 100 in a lab. The Halo app does all of this using your smartphone’s camera. Once you’ve taken your photos, the app automatically removes everything else in the background, calculates body fat percentage based on body metrics, and then creates a cool and terrifying 3D model of your body. The app requires you to wear minimal tight clothing and trust Amazon to take a picture of you wearing it. The whole process takes a few seconds.

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Amazon’s Halo app creates a 3D render of your body to analyze body fat, while the fitness bracelet monitors sleep and activity.

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If you’re feeling uncomfortable, it’s no surprise: the idea of ​​scanning the body with a camera is already a tricky proposition. Amazon doing this on a health platform, it does it more. The sample body scan images Amazon showed me looked very personal – not necessarily something I’d like someone else to see.

That’s why Amazon promises that the finished body scans will stay on your phone and won’t be shared with anyone, including the company, unless you choose to. According to Amazon, “Images are processed in the cloud, but encrypted in transit and processed within seconds, after which they are automatically deleted from Amazon’s systems and databases. All scanned images are completely deleted within 12 hours. The scanned images are not viewed by anyone on Amazon and are not used for machine learning optimizations. ”

Look at that tone!

Halo also offers tone analysis, which has nothing to do with body tone, but rather analyzes the nuances of your voice to paint a picture of how you sound to others. It can let you know when you’ve rang the bell offline, oddly enough.

The fitness band has two built-in microphones to capture audio and listen to emotional signals. The company says it’s not about analyzing the content of your conversation, but simply the tone of your performance. It takes periodic samples of your speech throughout the day if you opt for the feature. You activate the microphones by pressing the side button and you will know when the microphone is off when a red LED lights up on the strip.

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Voice scanning brings out the specific voice of the wearer in conversations and provides analysis with words related to emotions (such as “happy” or “concerned” in the Halo app). The idea, according to Amazon, is to help you deliver better voice tones and speaking styles, such as good posture vocal form. This is not a form of psychological analysis, but it seems terribly difficult to draw the line on a concept like this.

Amazon has been exploring the idea of ​​emotional tone detection since at least 2018, but this is the first time it has tackled the idea in any device. And according to Amazon, the Tone feature is only available on the Halo group at the moment. It will be limited to the group’s microphone, but Amazon seems open to exploring the idea on other devices, based on early access response from First Wave wearers. It’s a very strange thing to put on a fitness bracelet, and we have no idea what it means to use yet.

Amazon promises that the Tone voice samples are encrypted and stored only on the wearer’s phone (shared from the group via Bluetooth with the encrypted key), are deleted after analysis and will not be shared in the cloud or used to create models. machine learning.

Sleep analysis with temperature monitoring

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Sleep analysis includes body temperature to detect changes that can impact sleep.

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The app provides a comprehensive sleep analysis with a breakdown of the different sleep stages and overall sleep score just like other fitness trackers. It also goes beyond the basics by keeping track of your overall body temperature while sleeping and creating a baseline for each person. It then plots your average temperature each night against your baseline to help you identify variations that could affect your health and the quality of your sleep.

The Halo bracelet will not provide a specific body temperature, as other portable room temperature devices such as the Oura ring already do.

Temperature has become a trending wearable measurement in the COVID-19 era: Oura’s ring has one and Fitbit’s new Sense watch has one too. Amazon’s Halo team is continuing research into detecting symptoms of COVID-19 on its wearable devices, much like other wearable health device companies, but no specific study or plan has yet been presented. .

Activity tracking: a week at a glance

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The activity app is based on a weekly points system.

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Halo also performs basic fitness tracking based on group information. It can automatically track walks and runs, but you will have to go to the app and manually mark all other workouts.

It rewards you for any kind of movement or activity, but gives more points for more intense workouts and subtracts points for sedentary time. And it doesn’t keep a daily count of your activity, your score is based on the points you have accumulated throughout the week. The entire picture of exercise, sedentary time and active time is combined into one tally.

Amazon’s sleep and activity scores and other AI tools will require an Amazon Halo subscription; otherwise, the tape will default to more basic tracking data. A little like Fitbit et son service Premium, this seems to continue the trend of fitness devices waiting for a subscription model as part of the package.

Lots of labs and partners, but no Google or Apple integration

An Amazon Halo Labs section looks like what’s on Fitbit’s Premium service, with plenty of multi-week health and fitness goals to subscribe to, and partners aligned from OrangeTheory to Weight Watchers. Amazon promises that these challenges are scientifically verified, but it also looks like these challenges will continue to be added over time.

But at least at launch, Halo won’t tie into Apple’s HealthKit or Google’s Fit app, putting it at a disadvantage compared to people already deeply invested in health tracking. Amazon relies on Weight Watchers, the John Hancock Vitality wellness program, and a few others that will be able to connect to Amazon Halo health data.

The looming issue of confidentiality

There’s a lot of process in terms of functionality, and while some look interesting and innovative, the biggest barrier to entry is privacy. Sharing any kind of health data (not to mention unflattering seminars) requires next-level trust, and you might not be ready to place that trust in Amazon. The company doesn’t exactly have the most perfect track record when it comes to user data privacy. Alexa-enabled devices have been in the spotlight since store private conversations “For machine learning purposes. “And Amazon’s Ring Doorbell had a series of privacy dust.

Halo puts privacy in your hands by letting you turn off data sharing with Amazon and third-party apps, as well as turn off the microphone on the band, but it’s still going to be an uphill battle. Unless its characteristics prove to be overwhelming and worth the risk to privacy, which remains to be seen.

Amazon is late on arrival

The lack of connection with Apple or Google is revealing. Amazon is playing in the health and fitness data space, and with Google, Fitbit, and Apple already deeply entrenched, it’s a big question how Amazon is going to make waves. Or, where Amazon Halo will go next. It’s a platform as much as a laptop, and it looks like Halo’s early access experience is just the tip of the iceberg.

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