At a time when every other tech giant or healthcare company is coming up with apps that could diagnose or help you detect whether or not you have coronavirus infection by asking you a bunch of questions on your smartphone, researchers at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University claim to have created a smartphone app that could determine whether you might have COVID-19 using just your voice.
COVID Voice Detector app
The team of researchers at CMU Pittsburgh claim that the 'COVID Voice Detector' app that they have developed can analyze your voice for any signs of COVID-19 infection, which is a easier and less intrusive way of detection than what the other apps do, asking you to reveal information such as your travel history and stuff.
Not a substitute for proper medical tests
However, they warn the app is still in its beginning stages and hasn't been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So, it shouldn't be solely used as a substitute for a proper medical test or examination.
"I've seen a lot of competition for the cheapest, fastest diagnosis you can have," said Benjamin Striner, a Carnegie Mellon grad student who worked on the project, in an interview with tech news portal Futurism.
"There are some pretty good ones that are actually really cheap and pretty accurate, but nothing's ever going to be as cheap and as easy as speaking into a phone."
How the COVID-19 Voice Detector app works
The app's working is quite straightforward. It uses a smartphone's or computer's microphone and asks the user to cough several times into it and also asks to record some vowel sounds, as well as recite the alphabets into the mic.
It then provides a score, which is represented by a downloading or loading-style progress bar, and this bar determines how likely the algorithm believes the user might have COVID-19. The higher the bar, the more the chances of COVID-19 infection.
App could help collect more COVID-19 data
The Carnegie Mellon researchers hope the app could prove to be a valuable tool in tracking the spread of the deadly virus and help them collect more data.
"We have it out there to let people know how it currently performs, but the primary objective of our effort/website at this point of time is to collect large numbers of voice recordings that we could use to refine the algorithm into something we — and the medical community — are confident about," said CMU professor Bhiksha Raj, who also worked on the app.
"If the app is to be put out as a public service, it, and our results, will have to be verified by medical professionals, and attested by an agency such as the CDC," She added.
"Until that happens, it's still very much an experimental and untrustworthy system."
Similar app by Israel
Meanwhile, the working of the app reminds us of a similar smartphone-based app called "Hamagen" that was launched by Israel which uses your smartphone's GPS and SSID (Wi-Fi) information to determine whether you have visited a location at the same time as an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.
The Israeli Health ministry collects information through interviews with coronavirus patients and updates the app which keeps track of the users' movements using the GPS on their phone and compares their locations with the information from the health ministry's data.