Israeli startup aims to identify coronavirus carriers using their voice

Research by Vocalis Health and Defense Ministry is collecting voice samples from COVID-19 patients and general public, hoping to home in on unique vocal fingerprint

Magen David Adom personnel at a drive-through site to collect samples for coronavirus testing, Tel Aviv, March 20, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Can coronavirus carriers be identified by analyzing their voice?

That’s what an Israeli startup is trying to find out, in collaboration with the Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure.

The startup, Vocalis Health, is currently conducting research aiming to identify a vocal fingerprint unique to those who have the respiratory virus, to help the Health Ministry better identify those who have been infected, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday.

Vocalis Health, headed by Tal Wenderow and Dr. Shady Hassan, is currently collecting voice and breathing samples from COVID-19 patients as well as from the general public, which will then be analyzed using machine learning technology.

It will then attempt to develop an algorithm that would help the Health Ministry make initial assessments and easily monitor the condition and symptoms of coronavirus carriers who are in their homes, to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.

Since the coronavirus affects the respiratory system, the underlying assumption is that the signs of distress it causes could be reflected in one’s voice and breathing.

Anyone can send voice samples via the company’s website and mobile application.

Initial results of the research, which is being conducted in collaboration with healthcare organizations and hospitals in Israel and around the world, are expected within four to six weeks.

There have been 1,930 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country — with hundreds added to the tally every day — and three fatalities.

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