Amazon, however, has decided to set its new fitness device apart from the rest by relying heavily on AI algorithms and listening to your voice. The $99 device is called Halo and it has a heart rate monitor inside, as well as an accelerometer, temperature sensor, and no screen all. It tracks the typical fitness stuff you’d expect like steps and pulse trends. But, It also has a pair of microphones, which are important for the device’s most interesting—and so far, controversial—feature, called Tone.
Amazon has tried to get out ahead of the obvious security concerns involved with Tone. The company claims that all of the speech processing and analysis happens in the app or on the device itself—it never makes its way to the cloud. Once the processing is done, the recording gets deleted and isn’t saved anywhere. That’s a departure from how Alexa works—you can go and listen to recordings of your Alexa requests right now by logging into your Amazon account.
Even with secure recordings, there’s still the somewhat murky issue of just how the algorithm perceives your speech patterns. Obviously, a person’s speech patterns can change for a variety of reasons, whether it’s their mood or a simple stuffed nose.
It’s clear that Amazon plans to expand on its Halo brand more in the future. The band costs just $99, but it will likely enjoy the regular cycle of deep price cuts that Amazon typically employs in order to bring people into its infrastructure of services. Right now, you can pre-order a Halo for $65, which includes six months of the Halo subscription (typically $3.99 per month).
Once you’re in the system, Amazon plans to keep users by implementing a health points system, a familiar technique for fitness trackers. You get a base goal of 150 somewhat nebulous points per week. You can earn them by walking, but you can earn more by running. You lose a point for every sedentary hour you spend per day beyond the eight it expects you to spend at your desk. It’s reminiscent of Nike’s Fuel Points from when it made its own fitness tracker.