Amazon will test the limits of human interest in health and wellness with a new $100 health band called “Halo” and an accompanying $4/month membership offering features including the ability to accurately measure body fat and analyze tone of voice to assess the degree of “energy and positivity” in a user’s communication.
Halo’s sleep tracking feature gauges not just time slept but motion, heart rate, and skin temperature. Its activity tracking function goes beyond basic step-counting, awarding more points for intense activity such as running, while deducting points for sitting too long at your desk.
In addition, the company is offering a collection of Halo “Labs,” which it describes as “science-backed challenges, experiments, and workouts” from Amazon’s Halo experts, celebrities and third-party wellness services.
About the only thing Halo doesn’t do, apparently, is test for COVID-19.
Amazon unveiled the new health band on Thursday morning to a decidedly mixed reaction to knowing such details about oneself, let alone having such information known by a device and service offered by the tech and e-commerce juggernaut.
Excited to discover today that Amazon’s new Halo fitness band would like to listen to your conversations AND take photos of you in your underwear, which feels like something people will absolutely be 100% happy with https://t.co/PQygATBZKa
— Chris Davies (@c_davies) August 27, 2020
However, Amazon assured circumspect users that privacy is “foundational” to Halo, with “multiple layers of privacy and security.”
“Health data is encrypted in transit and in the cloud, and customers can download or delete their data at any time directly from the app,” the company says. “Body scan images are automatically deleted from the cloud after processing, so only the customer sees them. Tone is enabled by creating a personal voice profile, after which it begins capturing short samples of speech and providing insights and daily recaps. Speech samples are always analyzed locally on the customer’s phone and automatically deleted after processing—nobody, not even the customer, ever hears them.”
Don’t forget, people laughed at the company’s Echo smart speakers, too, and how many of those do we all have in our houses now?
The device itself comes without any screen, with fabric bands and sensors in three different color combinations. Amazon says the battery lasts seven days and charges in less than 90 minutes.
While the Halo device and service appear unique in approach and ambitious in scope, they are but the latest foray by Amazon into health and wellness, including primary care clinics for employees, its acquisition of online pharmacy Pillpack, and its Haven healthcare partnership with JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway.
Amazon is looking to use its prowess in technology and artificial intelligence to carve out a niche in the fitness tracker market, competing against established players such as Fitbit, Garmin and Xiaomi, as well as fitness tracking features in smart watches from fellow tech giants Apple and Samsung. It’s the latest in a growing lineup of wearable devices from Amazon, including the Echo Loop smart ring and Echo Frames eyeglasses.
However, integrations with existing Amazon services are noticeably absent from Halo. The subscription is not available as part of an Amazon Prime membership, and the company has not integrated the Alexa voice assistant into the device. Amazon tells The Verge that it doesn’t consider Halo a medical device and hasn’t submitted it for FDA approval.
Customers can apply for early access to buy the Halo device for a promotional price of $64.99, before the standard price of $99.99 kicks in. Advanced features require the $3.99/month Halo membership. Without a membership, the device will offer basic step counting, sleep time and heart rate.