According to a team of researchers, their app will tell you if you have COVID-19. However, they’ve also warned that it isn’t trustworthy.
Proving that puff science combined with capitalism is a far greater danger than the pandemic itself, a team of researchers are now developing an app that will tell you if you have COVID-19 solely based on the sound of your voice.
“I’ve seen a lot of competition for the cheapest, fastest diagnosis you can have,” said Benjamin Striner, a Carnegie Mellon graduate student who worked on the project, in an 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.”
Ostensibly, Striner’s boast is based in truth, as coronavirus testing kits are sorely needed.
While the app (which is still a work in progress) shouldn’t be a substitute for a medical test or examination, the people of science justified their brainwave thusly: “What we are attempting to do is to develop a voice-based solution, which, based on preliminary experiments and prior expertise, we believe is possible. The app’s results are preliminary and untested,” said Bhiksha Raj, a professor at Carnegie Mellon who also worked on the project. “The score the app currently shows is an indicator of how much the signatures in your voice match those of other COVID patients whose voices we have tested. This is not medical advice. 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.”
“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 added. “Until that happens, its still very much an experimental and untrustworthy system. I urge people not to make healthcare decisions based on the scores we give you. You could be endangering yourself and those around you.”
For those curious, you can test out the COVID Voice Detector. This isn’t approved by the CDC, nor should it be a substitute for an actual examination, but if you must, go ahead.
Rita Singh is also a member of the team (who herself is a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon), and has spent years developing technology that identifies microscopic clues in the human voice that purportedly indicate psychological, physiological, and even medical data of the splutterer.
“The cough of a COVID patient is very distinctive,” Singh said. “It affects the lungs so badly that breathing patterns and several other vital parameters are affected, and those are likely to have very strong signatures in (the) voice.”
The team is now busy trying to source enough audio of COVID sufferers so their algorithm can understand what the virus sounds like. According to Futurism, the team “even pored over news videos to find interviews with patients, and add those to the dataset as well.”
With that being said, the team are mindful of their downloadable Frankenstein and told Futurism that they’re consulting with medical professionals to tweak the sweet spot of the app. “We would probably side more towards having some false positives then false negatives, if that makes sense…if you give someone a false negative on COVID, then they walk around and get a bunch of people sick, versus a couple extra false positives, maybe some people get tests they don’t need,” Striner said.