In the foreseeable future, your medical exam could include a speaking portion – and be done on your smartphone. Sonde Health, a PureTech initiative, just announced it’s received an exclusive license from MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory for technology capable of analyzing someone’s voice and detecting medical conditions.
Sonde Health, which is located in Back Bay, will be building out a platform using this newly acquired technology that would pick apart snippets of audio samples taken over time, looking out for changes in acoustic traits that could point to a wide range of medical conditions. It would be able to detect both mental and physical ailments, such as depression and cardiovascular diseases.
According to the company, speech is a delicate yet complex dance performed by different parts of the body. Uttering a sentence depends on various systems – including the respiratory, nervous and musculoskeletal systems – functioning in a certain way. When medical conditions are present, they can affect people’s bodies, and consequently speech, in a way that’s consistently measurable across the human population.
“Meaningful health information from everyday voice interactions people have on a range of devices they already own.”
With the MIT technology, the platform will be able to pick up on changes in elements like pitch, articulation and hoarseness in audio samples. Sonde Health will be able to analyze these vocal biomarkers and pinpoint potential ailments corresponding to these changes.
“Sonde is developing the technology platform to extract clinically meaningful health information from everyday voice interactions people have on a range of devices they already own,” Jim Harper, co-founder and COO at Sonde Health, said in a statement. “The analysis does not require the content of the speech to be retained, and can readily support the strong security and privacy features users demand with regard to potentially sensitive health information.”
As a result, regular and on-demand screenings could help underdiagnosed conditions. In particular, people with undiagnosed mental disorders, which are subjective screened, could benefit from Sonde Health and MIT’s technical collaboration.