Amazon’s New Wearable Can Sense When You’re Blue

For the October issue of JCK (out soon), I wrote about the Apollo, a wearable that harnesses neuroscience to send vibration patterns designed to soothe your pandemic-frayed nerves.

But the trend of wearables doubling as emotion readers and healers has preoccupied several device makers this past year, including Amazon.

The tech giant’s new health and wellness band, Halo, does all the things a basic fitness tracker does, including tracking fitness sessions and steps, monitoring heart rate, and gauging sleep duration and quality. But it also listens to and analyzes the many tones of your voice, in an effort to gauge your emotions. Once it feels it has your mood pegged, the Halo feeds you tips for communicating with others in whatever state you’re in.

According to Amazon, the Halo band “uses machine learning to analyze energy and positivity in a customer’s voice so they can better understand how they may sound to others, helping improve their communication and relationships.”

It’s your etiquette-obsessed mom, tucked inside a fitness tracker! Or—for the less cynical among us—a positivity coach in bracelet form.

Amazon says voice tone patterns “may reveal that a difficult work call led to less positivity in family discussions, an indication of the impact of stress on social well-being.”

Though I can’t imagine taking mood-enhancing advice from a fitness tracker, I can definitely envision using Halo’s innovative body-fat scanner to address my unwelcome “pandemic pounds.” The Halo is a different breed of weight-loss guide in that it strives to help users drop pounds by focusing on body-fat percentage, not weight.

The companion Halo app doubles as a body screener, taking stock of a body’s composition in a similar way scans like DEXA do. Here’s how it works: Users take body photos in tight-fitting clothes and the app processes them by eliminating backgrounds and calculating body-fat percentage based on what’s left in the image. The app then creates a 3-D model of the body, which shrinks as you lose weight.

Sounds cool! Also terrifying! Amazon does promise that photo sharing on the app is strictly opt-in, and that mics are always turned off—you have to chose to switch them on.

The screenless Halo is available in heathered black, pink, and silver hues, priced at $64.99 presale (it will shoot up to $99.99 once it’s released). Both those prices include a six-month subscription for advance features including body scan and emotion reading. Without a subscription, you’re left with a basic, seemingly solid fitness tracker.

Top: Amazon Halo devices in all three colors (photo courtesy of Amazon)

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JCK Magazine Editor