Amazon on Thursday launched its first fitness band and app, Halo, as the e-commerce giant looks to take on Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung in an increasingly crowded fitness tracker market.

The Halo band, which does not feature a display screen unlike most of its rivals, is priced at $99.99, while the app membership costs $3.99 per month, Amazon said.

The market for wearables is highly crowded, with Apple Inc being the leader with a 29.3% share in the first quarter of 2020, according to data from market research firm International Data Corp.

Rivalry for a greater share of the fitness band market has prompted Apple and Samsung to add features for health tracking, including electrocardiogram and blood pressure sensor.

In comparison, Amazon has featured a relatively new technology in the market called tone analysis, which reviews users’ tone during conversations. When enabled, a microphone on the band listens to detect emotions such as happiness, confusion or affection in the speaker’s tone.

It remains to be seen if consumers would embrace this feature or would it spark privacy concerns. Amazon said the technology was designed in a way that protects privacy.

The company said the water-resistant band, with a battery life of up to 7 days, also contains an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart rate monitor and can measure body fat percentage.

Alphabet Inc-owned Google is also making strides into the fitness market. Google in November said it would buy Fitbit Inc for $2.1 billion, a deal that is currently under regulatory scrutiny.

The market is also crowded by cheaper offerings from China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Xiaomi Corp.

Amazon Halo Band Features

Like its competitors, Halo can track heart rate and sleep patterns, but it’s also looking to differentiate itself with a peculiar feature: judging your emotional state from your tone of voice.

According to the company, Halo wristband will connect to an app on a user’s smartphone through Bluetooth to optimize the functionality. The wristband contains sensors that monitor physical health and mental wellbeing.

“Health is much more than just the number of steps you take in a day or how many hours you sleep,” said Maulik Majmudar, a cardiologist and principal medical officer at Amazon Halo.

“Amazon Tone” claims to tell you how you sound to other people. It uses “machine learning to analyze energy and positivity in a customer’s voice so they can better understand how they may sound to others, helping improve their communication and relationships,” Amazon’s press release for Halo reads.

To give an example, Amazon’s chief medical officer Maulik Majmudar said Tone might give you feedback such as: “In the morning you sounded calm, delighted, and warm.” According to Majmudar, Tone analyzes vocal qualities like your “pitch, intensity, tempo, and rhythm” to tell you how it thinks you sound to other people.

“Amazon Halo combines the latest medical science, highly accurate data via the band sensors and cutting-edge artificial intelligence to offer a more comprehensive approach to improving your health and wellness.”

The Halo band’s main two new features are called Body and Tone. The former uses your smartphone camera to capture a 3D scan of your body and then calculate your body fat, and the latter uses a microphone on the Halo Band to listen to the tone of your voice and report back on your emotional state throughout the day. A Halo subscription will offer a suite of “labs” developed by partners.

Amazon Halo Band Hardware

The Amazon Halo Band consists of a sensor module and a band that clicks into it on top. The band lacks increasingly standard options like GPS, Wi-Fi, or a cellular radio, another sign that it’s meant to be a more laid-back kind of tracker. Although Amazon says halo band “is not a medical device,” hence, it hasn’t submitted the device to the FDA for any sort of approval, including the lighter-touch “FDA clearance” but it is obvious that this band offers more health feature than a regular fitness band.

Unlike other smartwatches and fitness trackers, Amazon’s Halo band does not have a screen. However, it does contain an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart-rate monitor, two microphones, and a button to turn the microphones on or off. The microphones are not for speaking to Alexa, by the way, they’re there for the voice tone feature. 

Meanwhile, a set of AI tools built into the accompanying service, which will cost $3.99 a month in the US (it is not currently available in the UK), will attempt to gauge information such as weight and body fat percentage by asking users to take undressed selfies with the app.

Above all, the Amazon Halo Band costs  ₦40,000 and comes with six months of free membership to the app, which otherwise costs ₦1600 per month. US customers can request early access to the band and app starting Thursday for a lower price. The device comes in black, gray, and rose gold. Unlike other popular wearables, the Halo Band features no screen and offers seven days of battery life.

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