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Smart speakers to track baby’s breathing

Washington: Researchers, including one of Indian-origin from Washington University, have developed a new smart speaker skill that lets a device use white noise to both soothe sleeping babies and monitor their breathing and movement. White noise is a combination of different sound frequencies, which makes a seemingly random soothing sound that can help cover up other noises that might wake up a sleeping baby.

“If we could use this white noise feature as a contactless way to monitor infants’ hand and leg movements, breathing and crying, then the smart speaker becomes a device that can do it all, which is really exciting,” said Indian-origin researcher and study co-author Shyam Gollakota, Associate Professor at Washington University.

To use white noise as a breathing monitor, the team needed to develop a method to detect tiny changes between the white noise a smart speaker plays and the white noise that gets reflected back from the infant’s body into the speaker’s array of microphones.

The prototype device, called BreathJunior, tracks both small motions — such as the chest movement involved in breathing — and large motions — such as babies moving around in their cribs. It can also pick up the sound of a baby crying. The prototype device was first tested on an infant simulator showing the system could accurately detect respiratory rates between 20 and 60 breaths per minute.