US Researchers Develop AI-Powered App to Detect COVID-19 Signs Through Voice Recordings

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Researchers at Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Mellon University have created an app that can reportedly determine whether you have COVID-19 by analyzing your voice.

According to the Carnegie Mellon researchers, the app is still in its infancy and has not yet been approved by either the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“I’ve seen a lot of competition for the cheapest, fastest diagnosis you can have,” Benjamin Striner, a Carnegie Mellon graduate student who worked on the app, said in a recent interview with Futurism. “And 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.”

The COVID Voice Detector uses artificial intelligence to analyze your voice and give you a score. Users have to cough several times and record certain vowel sounds and the alphabet using either a smartphone or a computer. 

“The score is a rating on a scale of 1-10 that tells you the likelihood that your voice carries signatures of COVID-19. The higher the returned rating, the greater the likelihood that you may be infected. In addition, the system provides an assessment of your lung capacity where possible,” the app’s website explains.

However, according to the researchers, the app should not be used to replace medical tests or examinations.

“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,” Carnegie Mellon Professor Bhiksha Raj, who also worked on the app, told Futurism.

The researchers believe the app might eventually be able to track the spread of the coronavirus as more data is collected.

“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,” Raj noted. “Until that happens, it’s still very much an experimental and untrustworthy system.”

The researchers also noted that the app will never be as accurate as a lab test.

“In terms of diagnostics, of course, it’s never going to be as as accurate as taking a swab and putting it on some agar and waiting for it to grow,” Striner explained.

The latest data by Johns Hopkins University reveals that there are more than 911,000 cases of the coronavirus globally. The country with the most confirmed cases - more than 200,000 - is the US, which has in recent weeks become the epicenter of the pandemic.

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