Amazon’s new “Halo” wearable device can listen to every word you say, determine your mood, and monitor your sleep.
NY Times Op Ed EXCERPT:
Halo is Amazon’s attempt to compete with the Apple Watch and Google (which is awaiting approval of its acquisition of Fitbit) in the health-tracking arena. I got on the wait list for it as soon as it was introduced in the summer, and it arrived on Halloween. I strapped on the attractive band and turned on all the intrusive bells and whistles, which Amazon had trumpeted as good for me.
The company has been on an endless quest for information about me (and you, too). The device widens the reach of the company’s personal-data grab, adding a user’s body tone and a body-fat analysis to the information it vacuums up, which required photos of me in as pared down a state of dress as possible.
Doubling down on owning the consumption grid, Amazon last week announced a major push into the prescription drug arena, since it needs to move into ever bigger markets like health and wellness in order to keep up its explosive growth. The announcement of Amazon Pharmacy to deliver prescription drugs to the home sent the stock prices of drugstore chains crashing. …
In the last few weeks of using Halo, it finally clicked as to why Amazon needs a device that tracks sleep and movement and body fat and even body tone: An Echo is too far away from our bodies, and the consumer goods we order give the company much information about us but not enough. Amazon needs even more, and to be even closer — skintight — to understand the state of me at all times. Then the company can begin to really determine what I might need or want at any moment.
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Another of Halo’s unique features is Tone, which uses the bracelet’s microphone to periodically eavesdrop on your conversations to tell you what your mood sounds like. I turned the feature off after two days because it felt like a creepy invasion of privacy. But I left it on long enough to complain to my wife about what a bad idea it was.
After analyzing the conversation, the Halo app said I sounded irritated and disgusted. That, at least, was accurate.
The Halo collects the most intimate information we’ve seen from a consumer health gadget — and makes the absolute least use of it.
This wearable is much better at helping Amazon gather data than at helping you get healthy and happy.
Since August, the Halo has been listed by Amazon as an “early access” product that requires an “invitation” to buy. (It will cost $100 plus a $4 monthly fee once it’s sold widely.) We’re reviewing the Halo now because Amazon’s first digital wellness product offers a glimpse of how one of tech’s most influential companies thinks about the future of health. And what could be better to do when we’re lonely during a pandemic than have an always-listening device point out our flaws? Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but we review all technology with the same critical eye.