Amazon may be planning to take a leaf out of Google’s book with a future Echo or Echo Show device, in the form of new sleep-tracking capabilities.
As spotted by Bloomberg (opens in new tab), the retail giant has successfully applied (opens in new tab) to the Federal Communications Commission for permission to use radar to “enable contactless sleep tracing functionalities.” The ability to use radar would also allow users to control a device with simple hand gestures and movements, aiding those “with mobility, speech, or tactical impairments” according to the listing.
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It’s sleep tracking that’s the main basis on Amazon’s pitch, however. “The use of Radar Sensors in sleep tracking could improve awareness and management of sleep hygiene, which in turn could produce significant health benefits for many Americans,” the company wrote in its filing. “Radar Sensors will allow consumers to recognize potential sleep issues.”
If this all sounds a little familiar, it’s because it’s the same technology that Google has been gradually introducing over the last few years, most successfully in the second-generation Nest Hub, where it also tracks sleep patterns.
Originally known as Project Soli, the radar chip was introduced to the Google Pixel 4, before going missing in last year’s Pixel 5. The company was very clear the technology wasn’t dead though, with Google’s hardware lead Rick Osteloh saying that it would “be used in the future,” but that it wasn't appropriate for the Pixel 5 on pricing grounds.
Sure enough, it emerged this year in Google’s smart screen. In our second-generation Google Nest Hub review, our senior writer Kate Kozuch was quite impressed with the implementation, once she got past the creepy factor of having a screen watching over her sleep.
“The Nest Hub does not provide specific sleep cycle data like some fitness trackers do, but the actionable sleep tracking data is among the most comprehensive I’ve seen for a consumer-facing device,” she wrote.
That said, she did note that the sensor could prove a little fickle, and was defeated by her accidentally placing a glass of water in front of it overnight. Still, the sleep duration readings proved to be within 10 minutes of her Apple Watch, with a clear advantage for Google in that the Nest Hub tracks contactlessly without the need for charging.
Amazon already has a method of sleep tracking for owners of the Halo band, but it’s safe to say that, in terms of sales, the Echo has proved a more successful product overall. And given the company already has a couple of smaller Echo devices designed for the bedroom, for instance the Echo Dot with Clock, it wouldn’t be surprising if Alexa had a brand new skill set very soon.
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