Your Smart Speaker Will Monitor Your Sleeping Baby's Movement And Breathing

Sundar Pichai - Oct 21, 2019


Your Smart Speaker Will Monitor Your Sleeping Baby's Movement And Breathing

The smart speaker has long been used in daily lives to play music, check the weather forecast as well as search things online. Now, they can do more.

Smart speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Home have long been used in daily lives to play music, check the weather forecast as well as search things online. Since the devices started allowing people to track their own health, they now feature a brand-new skill beneficial for infant monitoring. Specifically, researchers will make use of white noise coming from the speakers which helps to both soothe the babies and keep track of their movement.

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Researchers make use of white noise coming from the speakers to soothe the babies

This skill, also known as BreathJunior, was developed by a team of researchers from the University of Washington. It detects babies’ motions by recording how white noise is reflected after coming out of the smart speakers. Researchers have conducted trials with five infants in a local hospital and witnessed a very close respiratory rate as compared to the result recorded by standard vital sign monitors. 

“Smart speakers are becoming more and more prevalent, and these devices already have the ability to play white noise. If we could use this feature as a contactless way to monitor infants’ hand and leg movements, breathing and crying, then the smart speaker becomes a device that can do it all,” said Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor at the University of Washington. 

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Smart speakers already have the ability to play white noise

The white noise, according to the researchers, is constructed from different sound frequencies. To keep babies asleep, this noise acts as a mask to cover up other sounds which might show up as a disturbance. Also, any difference between the white noise and its reflection from the infants’ body will be taken through the microphones mounted in the speaker itself, which helps the device monitor the movement as the baby rolls. 

“Because we know the original signal, we can cancel out any randomness from that and then we’re left with only information about the motion from the baby,” said the team. 

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This noise acts as a mask to cover up other sounds which might show up as a disturbance

Detecting babies’ breathing, on the other hand, seems to be a little more complicated. The variations between the white noise reflect from the baby chest's movements are harder to detect. However, researchers have found out a method to handle the issue by using a larger speaker with multiple microphones. Once they pinpointed the exact position of the infant in the room, they focused the signal processing on the reflected sounds from that direction only for better results as well as accuracy.

The new skill is supposed to be installed on smart speakers including the Amazon Echo and the Google Home and have the ability to detect even abnormal breathing patterns. If successful, it might save parents hundreds of dollars to purchase other baby monitoring devices as they already own the tool they need.

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