September 27, 2020

Amazon Halo Tracks Body Fat and Emotions, Demands Monthly Fee for This

Amazon has wormed its way into most areas of consumer electronics, such as smart speakers,...

Amazon has wormed its way into most areas of consumer electronics, such as smart speakers, security cameras, routers, and even wearables. The new Halo fitness band focuses on health, which is not a unique approach. However, it does stand apart from the crowd in one notable way: there’s no screen. The Halo relies on an app to access data on body fat, emotional state, and more. But it’s not free to use. 

The Halo hardware will run you $99.99, but it’s only available by invitation right now with a limited time price of $64.99. The smart part of the Halo hides under the band, and Amazon plans to sell a lot of different styles. Because there’s no screen, it’ll just look like you’re wearing a slightly chunky bracelet. The device pairs with your phone over Bluetooth to log your stats, and that’s where you have to go to see them. 

The device comes with six months of premium service, without which your fitness band only does the basics like heart rate, step tracking, and sleep logging. After the trial is over, Halo costs $3.99 per month, but it does have a lot of features. Whether they’re useful is another story. 

Amazon is hanging its hat on Halo’s body composition and voice analysis to hook people. When you set up Halo, you use the app to take pictures of yourself in your underwear, which yes, sounds like a very bad idea. However, Amazon promises that your Halo data is kept separate from your Amazon account, and it deletes all photos within 12 hours. Halo uses the images to estimate your body fat with cloud AI. Amazon says body fat is a better measure of health than other metrics, and its AI scans are better at estimating it than other methods. Amazon says it has data to back that up, but we’ll have to take its word for now. 

The voice analysis feature seems somewhat less scientific. The microphone on Halo doesn’t do voice commands, but instead senses the tone of your voice and connects that to your emotional state throughout the day. Amazon categorizes the recordings (which stay on your phone) into states like happy, bored, worried, and confused. However, it notes that its AI is modeled on US English, so those with other accents might find the data less reliable. Whether it’s reliable for anyone seems up in the air, though. 

Halo might be a tough sell. The features seem too general for fitness enthusiasts, and casual users won’t be keen to spend $4 per month on a wearable that tells you when you’re feeling worried.

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