Amazon Should Think Half Baked Health Tracking

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Image: Amazon – The company’s first fitness tracker Amazon’s Halo band was criticized when it was launched for its two brand features: body fat scanning and sound analysis. Various reviews — including those of Gizmodo — describe the gadget as timid and invasive. Perhaps you think Amazon might change its approach to health technology. Rather, Amazon’s new feature that uses your smartphone camera to measure your “Movement Health” will double.

Movement: Movement Health allegedly uses artificial intelligence, computer vision and machine learning to analyze your functionality, or how well your body handles movements that help you to perform your daily work—think to bend to collect your food, to lift a child or to move a stack of meals from one office to the counter. It is a good and noble goal to assist people to maintain functional fitness. I’m not sure that Amazon was actually thinking through this whole thing.

How it works is this: The Halo app leads a user to an evaluation of about 10 minutes with single leg balances, forward lungs, overhead squats, overhead reaches and squats with feet together. The app gives you 100 scores in terms of stability, mobility and position across various areas of your body and a breakdown of your results. The service will then recommend guided videos for 5-10 minutes of corrective exercises to help improve your weak areas. The idea is at least three times per week to do these short workouts and re-test every two to four weeks.

Since it’s Amazon, the advertising blog is privacy too. Your evaluation videos will be encrypted, transmitted into the cloud and removed once the algorithm has been passed.

This feature is not as grim or problem-sensitive as body fat scanning or tonic monitoring. There are a few fitness apps that claim to test your form. There are also novel concepts. I can see on the surface how anyone can really think it’s useful. But it’s a bit half-baked as part of the entire Halo experience.

Although the algorithms have been trained on several bodies, Amazon told the Verge that you really are against a nebulous, uniform ideal, which may not truly reflect what really suits your specific requirements, objectives and capacities best. All of this gives you a technically impressive feature to give an overview of how Movement Health scores are related to your overall health. How are these exercises encouraged? In order to improve your health score for the Amazon Halo movement, because you might have fixed the body… stability? And that means you could lift heavy objects more easily? Even if what you really want is an entirely different fitness or health objective?

This is not necessarily a bad feature. It is not yet live, so its effectiveness cannot be assessed at the moment. But who’s that for exactly? Does anybody think to themselves, “Oh, lifting foodstuffs have become hard lately. Let me use my phone so that it can tell me at 1-100 how good is my mobility on my left shoulder so I know exactly which 10 minutes of workouts to do.”

You’d more likely think, “Wow, I’ve got noodle arms. That, I want to modify. Let me look at how my upper body can be strengthened.” Or perhaps one such rolling supermarket cart would just get you and call it a day.

Here’s the stupid thing. In its design, Amazon Halo is deliberately simplistic — the band has not even a display and their basic activity tracking is not informative. Yet its marquee features are over-engineered to solve issues, which are not truly disruptive and invasive. They are also strangely fixed on assessing you on the basis of unspecified standards. The whole platform is almost like showing Amazon’s technological strengths and halving a claim for wearables rather than helping people achieve their goals for health and fitness.