Your quantified self on steroids: Amazon's Halo and Halo Band are creepy and kinda cool

If you're into digital wellness and quantified self metrics, Amazon's combination of a purpose-built $99.99 device and $3.99 per month service may bit hard to refuse. This is how AI and machine learning get personal.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Amazon Halo Band

Amazon's Halo and Halo Band include a hefty dose of artificial intelligence and machine learning, innovative approaches, and a dash of creepiness to go along with privacy features. But if you're into digital wellness and quantified self metrics, it's going the Halo service and Halo Band may bit hard to refuse.

While smartwatches and fitness bands are everywhere, Amazon's Halo effort is a bet that there's room for a purpose-built device that is more service than hardware.

According to Amazon, Halo and Halo Band will be powered by artificial intelligence and a bevy of sensors to provide insights to your wellness. Amazon is launching early access in the US with the Halo Band and six months of Halo membership for $64.99. The Halo Band is $99.99 with a six-month free subscription. After six months, the subscription is $3.99 a month.

Ultimately, a Halo and Prime bundle is likely.

Amazon Halo's Principal Medical Officer Maulik Majmudar said in a statement that digital health is about more than steps and hours of sleep and that the device is more comprehensive than competitors. Indeed, and insurers like John Hancock plan integrations and wellness programs with Halo, and Cerner is planning connections to electronic health records.  

Halo Band is simple and notification free. Halo Band comes with an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart rate monitor, two microphones, an LED indicator light, and a button to turn the microphones on and off. The band is water-resistant and can last seven days without a charge.

The features on Halo and Halo Band put a new spin on health metrics. Here's the breakdown:

Activity revolves around Amazon Halo points that are awarded based on intensity and duration of movement and not steps. In other words, running gets more points than steps. Halo deducts one point for every hour over 8 hours of sedentary time in a day excluding sleep.

Sleep is measured via motion, heart rate, and temperature and is categorized into phases. Halo's sleep score is out of 100.

Body fat percentage is calculated using computer vision and machine learning. Amazon claims its Halo body fat measurement is as accurate as you'd get at the doctor and twice as accurate as a smart scale. Images from a 3D body model are only stored locally. Here's how Amazon describes the process:

Whether it's your bathroom or bedroom, your Man Cave or She Shed, you can take a body scan wherever you're most comfortable. You'll need to wear tight, minimal clothing (think a sports bra and bike shorts for women; boxers or briefs for men), tie up your hair, and keep about 4-6 feet of space between you and your phone. Uniform lighting from the front is ideal. When you're ready, the Amazon Halo app shows you exactly how to stand and guides you through taking four scan images -- front, back, and each side.

In seconds, you'll see your personalized 3D body model, BFP (body fat percentage), and body model slider in the Amazon Halo app. It's that simple! The model gives you a 3D view of your body at the time of that scan. Amazon Halo helps you understand where your BFP stands in relation to people of the same sex and age, and the slider can help you visualize how your body could change as you gain or lose body fat. Keeping the conditions consistent between scans will help achieve the best result. It takes time for your body fat to change. We recommend taking scans every 2 weeks and observe trends over a longer duration to track progress. We were excited to pilot the Body feature with WW members—more than 80 percent said it was a useful or motivational tool in their journey.


A look at Halo Body Fat Percentage and Tone. 


Tone will use machine learning to gauge social and emotional well-being by analyzing energy and positivity in a customer's voice. Amazon said:

Tone is powered by advanced machine learning-based speech processing technologies. The Amazon Halo Band and Halo app use voice detection algorithms to pick up speech, remove background noise, and optimize battery life. Our AI analyzes qualities of the customer's voice such as pitch, intensity, tempo, and rhythm to predict how others would perceive and describe the customer's tone of voice, which creates a summary you can see and use to identify trends within your life.

Labs will include challenges, experiments, and workouts to discover what works out best for the individual. Challenges may include cutting out afternoon caffeine and various home workouts. Partners for Labs include 8fit, Aaptiv, American Heart Association, Exhale On Demand, Harvard Health Publishing, Headspace, Julian Treasure, Lifesum, Mayo Clinic, Openfit, Orangetheory Fitness, P.volve, Russell Wilson, Relax Melodies, SWEAT, and WW.

Amazon is likely to build out its ecosystem of integrations.

As for privacy, Amazon said images and speech samples are stored locally and deleted after processing. Health data is encrypted in transit and the cloud and customers can download or delete data at any time from the app.

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