If you’re the type to ask Alexa to lead you through workouts and guided meditations, you’ll probably be intrigued by Amazon’s latest device. The company recently introduced the Amazon Halo, its take on the fitness tracker.
At first glance, the Amazon Halo seems like your average fitness tracker. It has a cloth band that can be swapped out. It integrates with an app on your smartphone and has a battery life of up to seven days. (Related: Amazon Echo’s Alexa Can Now Answer Your Health Questions)
Like most trackers, the Amazon Halo detects your movement to measure both activity and sleep, and the nuances of each (e.g. walking vs. running; REM vs. deep sleep) are condensed into scores. For example, you might lose points for being sedentary for most of the day or earn points based on how much time you spent in a deep phase of sleep.
Here’s where the Halo diverges from other fitness trackers, though: The Halo can apparently measure your emotional wellbeing by monitoring more than just heart rate variability. Specifically, the Halo is said to be able to pick up on your tone of voice throughout the day through a microphone. By detecting the pitch, intensity, tempo, and rhythm of your speaking, the Halo delivers a daily summary letting you know whether you sounded “hopeful,” “calm,” etc. The “Tone” feature is optional, so you can leave the microphone off if you want.
The Amazon Halo also tracks your body fat percentage through your smartphone’s lens. Supposedly, it works by scanning your body through your phone’s camera and, based on this image, is able to deliver a body fat percentage measurement that Amazon claims is “as accurate as methods a doctor would use — and nearly twice as accurate as leading at-home smart scales.” The program doesn’t “see” body fat directly, but “analyzes the details of regions of the body known to be ‘hot spots’ for measuring body fat, such as the torso, thighs, and mid-back, as well as the overall shape of your body from the scan images to accurately estimate your BFP,” according to Amazon’s description of the feature. You’re met with your body fat percentage, weight, and a “body model slider,” a model of yourself that simulates what your body might look like were your body fat percentage to go up or down.
Measuring body fat percentage can be useful since your weight isn’t a complete picture of your health. “Bodyweight on a scale doesn’t differentiate between how much muscle someone has versus how much fat they’re carrying around,” Sabrena Jo, senior exercise scientist at the American Council on Exercise, previously told Shape. “It’s the fat versus lean mass that really gives you an indication of how healthy you are.” If you have body recomposition goals, tuning in to changes in body fat percentage is key.
Amazon has also partnered with several brands to provide “Labs,” which are wellness challenges you can complete while measuring how your body responds with the Halo. So far some of the brands include Exhale On Demand, the Mayo Clinic, Orangetheory, Headspace, and Openfit.
You might be wondering about privacy, especially in light of the voice recording function. The Halo can collect your fitness metrics, body fat composition, demographic data, sleep, tone of voice (assuming the mic is on), skin temperature, motion, and heart rate, as well as how you interact with the band and app. According to Amazon, your voice recordings are transferred from your band to your phone, processed, then automatically deleted, so they’re never sent to the Amazon cloud. Body scan images are sent to and from the cloud, then automatically deleted from the cloud. If you’re signing up for a Lab, you can control how much you share with third parties through the app’s settings. Each brand will have its own privacy or data use policy. (Related: Your Fitness Tracker Might Help You Catch Under-the-Radar Coronavirus Symptoms)
By purchasing the Halo, you get access to its most basic functions (steps, sleep time, and heart rate), but you’ll have to sign up for a $4/month membership to access the rest of its fancy features. You won’t necessarily be able to get your hands on it just yet. Amazon is granting early access on a rolling basis to those who join a waitlist. With early access, you can buy the band and 6 months of membership for $65. (Post-early access, that’ll cost $100.) If you want to sign up, click “Request Early Access” on the product page, and you’ll get an email if you’re selected.
Depending on your outlook on wearable tech, you’re probably either delighted or horrified by everything that the Halo detects. If you love a fitness tracker that seems like a product of sci-fi, it’s definitely going to appeal.
Gallery: A Heart-Rate Monitor Watch Might Totally Change The Way You Work Out (Women’s Health)