Israel-based Beyond Verbal, which makes voice recognition software to analyze human emotion, is now moving its work into health and wellness with the launch of the Beyond mHealth Research platform. The goal is to identify physiological markers through the voice that may indicate various health related issues.
Researchers can now integrate Beyond Verbal's API into any type of application and correlate it other life events, leveraging the existing AI tools as well as the expertise of its data science team to gain new insight into unique vocal biomarkers. When a new biomarker is discovered, the research platform will guide partners on the path to scaling up their findings. The platform also offers a HIPAA compliant app that collects participants’ data and a secure web interface to facilitate data sharing.
The company has previously made a name for its self offering voice-analyzing apps that help people stay aware of their emotional state. Ultimately, they want to take that information to connect with other smart devices that could create a tailored experience based on a person's emotions, like in a smart home. This new step would also integrate devices and apps to give actionable advice about health.
“We’ve doing work for a long time about the emotional side of voice, and over the last few years, over the connection between the tone of voice and medical conditions,” Yuval Mor, CEO of Beyond Verbal told MobiHealthNews at Health 2.0 in Santa Clara. “Now, it’s intuitive to think of things like Parkinson's or ALS or dementia or autism that you can – even as a human being – identify that something is wrong based on voice abnormalities, but what we’ve been doing is extending the research to non-neurological conditions like heart disease.”
Beyond Verbal is the product of several research projects spanning 21 years, and the company has collected more than 2.5 million emotion-tagged voices in more than 40 languages to analyze human emotions. The company has been working with the Mayo Clinic, Scripps, Haddassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University and others to expand research into health-indicating vocal intonations. With the Beyond mHealth Research Platform, the company will enable collaboration with other institutions, medical centers and commercial organizations. It will be free for research institutions, but enterprise partnerships would be paid, Mor said.
“We see an environment where insurance companies and health management organizations would have interest in contributing to this kind of information-gathering, as we move from ‘sick care’ to ‘healthcare,’” Mor said.
For now, the research platform supports work with Hebrew and English, but they plan to expand to many other languages, starting with Chinese, Mor said. However, the actual language isn't so important as the information gleaned from how people are using their voice.
"It's not language dependent, because speaking and tones come from the limbic system and carry the same information across languages," Mor said. "Think of how we all pretty much learn langauges in the same way, how parents all speak to their babies in the same tones across the world, or even how dogs can understand human language tones."
The company, founded in 2012, launched its Beyond Wellness API in 2014, which turns any smartphone or mic-equipped wearable device into an emotional wellbeing sensor using technology that doesn’t consider the actual content or context of spoken word, but instead studies intonation in the voice. The company has two free, consumer-facing apps, Moodie and Empath, and one for clinicians called Beyond Clinic.
While Beyond Verbal’s other apps instantly take a reading of the voice and analyze it for emotions, the research for health issues will take some time, Mor said, but the idea of listening for tone is the same.
“We’re not listening for words or invading privacy in any way,” Mor said. “We’re only looking for the music of the voice, and having a way to continuously monitor that by using any device with a microphone could be an amazing way to look at a lot of conditions.”