Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Smart Speaker Monitors Baby’s Breathing

A team of researchers at the University of Washington have developed way to monitor a baby's breathing and movement through the use of common household smart speakers. The skill, called BreathJunior, involves the smart speaker playing white noise while simultaneously recording how the noise is reflected back. These recordings are then analyzed to determine the baby's  breathing motions. 

 

UW researchers 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.
UW researchers 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. CREDIT: University of Washington

“We start out by transmitting a random white noise signal. But we are generating this random signal, so we know exactly what the randomness is,” says
Anran Wang, doctoral student at University of Washington and first author of the study. “That signal goes out and reflects off the baby. Then the smart speaker’s microphones get a random signal back. Because we know the original signal, we can cancel out any randomness from that and then we’re left with only information about the motion from the baby.”

 

From the University of Washington article: "The team created a prototype smart speaker to test BreathJunior on an infant simulator. The researchers could set the simulator to breathe at specific rates, which allowed them to test how well BreathJunior detected a variety of respiratory rates — from a slow 20 breaths per minute to 60 breaths per minute. The infant simulator also allowed the team to test if BreathJunior could detect abnormal breathing patterns, such as apnea, that are common in babies who are born early and may not have developed respiratory centers in their brains. The system performed well for both tests.

Then the team tested how well their prototype tracked real babies’ breathing in the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU. These babies are connected to wired, hospital-grade respiratory monitors, so the team could compare their readouts to BreathJunior’s. The system was able to accurately identify respiratory rates up to 65 breaths per minute."

 

Read more about the smart speaker that monitors baby's breathing at University of Washington


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