Smart Speaker Listens for Cardiac Arrest

This AI system detects unique gasping sounds that occur when the heart stops beating

When a person’s heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating, death can occur within minutes—unless someone intervenes. A bystander administering CPR right away can triple a person’s chances of surviving a cardiac arrest.

Last July, we described a smart watch designed to detect cardiac arrest and summon help. Now, a team at the University of Washington has developed a totally contactless AI system that listens to detect the telltale sound of agonal breathing—a unique guttural gasping sound made by 50 percent of cardiac arrest patients.

The smart speaker system, described today in the journal npj Digital Medicine, detected agonal breathing events 97 percent of the time with almost no false alarms in a proof-of-concept study.

The team imagines using the tool—which can run on Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, among other devices—to passively monitor bedrooms for the sound of agonal breathing and, if detected, set off an alarm.

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