Amazon Halo fitness band has microphones to track your voice tone

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Amazon is launching a new fitness wearable, Amazon Halo Band, designed to track not only movement and sleep, but analyze "positivity" from the tone of your voice. The Halo Band itself is screen-free and only communicates via an LED indicator, with Amazon using its AI-powered Halo app to do the heavy-lifting and feedback.

The Halo Band is water resistant, and comes with a fabric strap so that it can be worn at night to track sleep. Its battery lasts for up to seven days, Amazon says, and it charges in 90 minutes. There are three band colors available at purchase, and further fabric and silicone sport bands in 15 other colors available separately.

Inside its sensor capsule is an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, and a heart-rate monitor. Probably most controversial, though, is the pair of microphones, which Amazon uses for its voice analysis.

There's a button to turn the microphones off, but the idea is that you leave them on so that the wearable can track "social and emotional well-being." Amazon says it uses machine learning to calculate "energy and positivity" in the Halo Band wearer's voice, "so they can better understand how they may sound to others, helping improve their communication and relationships."

Tone results, the retailer suggests, "may reveal that a difficult work call leads to less positivity in communication with a customer's family, an indication of the impact of stress on emotional well-being." It's based on metrics like the pitch, intensity, tempo, and rhythm of speech, Amazon says, compared to an initial Tone profile that's trained with your voice as you read out a few quotes from classic books.

While there's undoubtedly going to be some who will be wary of embracing yet more Amazon microphones into their life, the company says that Halo's Tone analysis will be turned off by default. The microphones will only ever be enabled if you create a voice profile. After that, it takes short samples of speech through the day, and then analyzes their acoustic characteristics; or, you'll be able to bookmark important conversations by pressing the Halo Band's button. That turns on continuous analysis for up to 30 minutes, and if you open the app you can see real-time analysis results too.

Amazon says that Tone speech samples are only processed locally, on an individual's phone, and not sent to the cloud. They're deleted automatically after they're processed. There's also the option in the app to delete all Tone results, and the voice profile, completely.

Like more standard health wearables, Halo Band also tracks activity. You'll earn points for intensity and duration of movement – so, more for running than for walking – and lost points for every hour over eight hours of sedentary time in the day, outside of sleep.

As for sleeping, Halo uses motion, heart rate, and temperature to track time asleep and time awake, and break it down into deep, light, and REM phases. For body fat, meanwhile, the Halo app uses the phone's camera to build a 3D body model – complete with sliders to show you how you might look as you gain, or lose, fat – as well as estimates for your fat percentage. You'll need to be happy with the app taking photos of you while you're wearing "tight, minimal clothing" like your underwear, but those images are uploaded to the cloud for processing – after which, Amazon says, they're deleted – while the local images and the 3D model are saved on your phone. You can, optionally, save the images in the cloud too.

Finally, there's Amazon Halo Labs. These are optional challenges and workouts, and can include things like cutting down on caffeine or doing a different fitness routine. They'll be created by Amazon, but also partners like Aaptiv, the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic, and Orangetheory Fitness. It'll also be possible to link a Halo account with third-party services like WW (Weight Watchers) and John Hancock Vitality, to optionally share fitness metrics.

Amazon Halo early access requests are being taken from today, with the Halo Band priced at $64.99 including six months of Halo membership. After the early access phase, that'll go up to $99.99. Membership is $3.99/mo after the first bundled six months. If you don't continue the subscription, you get basic tracking like steps, sleep time, and heart rate.