Yesterday, on August 27, the tech gargantuan Amazon revealed that they're in the making of a novel holistic fitness watch called Halo. Right off the bat, the most striking feature about the Halo is that it doesn't have a screen on it. And while the device offers pretty much everything offered by its major competitors, it has two extravagant, and potentially disconcerting features: 3D body composure scanning and listening to the emotional inflections in the user's voice.
The Halo is expected to cost $99.99 and has a subscription fee that unlocks the more advanced functionalities, which is $3.99 per month. For now, it's distributed on an invite-only basis and costs $64.99 and offers all its advanced features without a fee for the first 6 months.
Unlike Apple Watch and alikes, Amazon Halo was not submitted for FDA approval or clearance.
The two main components of the wrist band are the sensor module and the band that surrounds it. Nothing extraordinary. Although, the band doesn't have a display, GPS, Wi-Fi, or radio, most of which we're accustomed to from other similar wrist gadgets.
It has; however, an accelerometer, temperature sensor, heart monitor, two mics, an LED status light, and a button to turn off the microphones (after all, privacy is of utmost importance, right?). The microphones aren't connected with Alexa however, they are for analyzing the inflections of your speech, which we'll get to shortly.
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It tethers with your devices via Bluetooth, be they Android or iOS. Another interesting feat is how they didn't just call it "watertight" or "waterproof", rather, they call it "swimproof". It's water-resistant for up to 5 ATM.
Body scanning, how exactly?
The device uses the smartphone camera to capture a 3D scan of the user's body and assesses body fat.
The app instructs the user to wear clothing that fits tightly (or ideally, just underwear) and stand back a few steps from the camera. It then shoots four photos of your back, sides, and front, which are uploaded to Amazon's servers.
Sounds scary but Amazon assures its users that after combining the images into a 3D scan they'll send it over to you and dispose of all your data from their servers in 12 hours.
What does the microphone do?
The microphones on the Halo does not support voice commands. To put the Tone feature simply, it listens to your voice throughout the day and reports how it infers your emotional state. Users are given the option to opt out completely from this feature, in this case, the mics don't do anything at all.
Once you opt in, a set up will walk you through some steps, asking you to read some stuff to it so it can model your voice and differentiate your voice among those others around you. Amazon also notes that your voice is not listened to by any humans and not even uploaded to any server at all. The analysis completely occurs in your phone. No one has processors and storage big enough to store and analyze this much data from this many people yet anyway.
The app checks the rhythm, tempo, pitch, and intensity of your speech and categories them into a reel of "notable moments" to present to you later. Some of the emotional categories the device picks up include: happy, worried, affectionate, confused, bored, elated, apologetic, elated, and hopeful.
For now, the Tone feature works on a generalized American English but Amazon claims it'll improve to provide accurate feedback to other accents and presumably, languages.