Israeli defence ministry launches coronavirus voice-test study

Can you hear coronavirus symptoms? Israel has launched a COVID-19 voice-test study to find out
2 min read
25 March, 2020
Israel is analysing COVID-19 patients' voices to see whether there is a 'vocal footprint' for the illness.
Researchers hope the study will enable remote coronavirus testing [AFP]
Israel's defence ministry has launched a research project to determine whether the COVID-19 illness caused by the novel coronavirus carries a "vocal fingerprint", Reuters reported.

Starting this week, an Israeli start-up will work with hospitals and academics to sample the voices of confirmed coronavirus patients through a mobile application, the defence ministry said.

Researchers hope to discover whether the highly contagious respiratory disease exhibits symptoms previously unknown to medics. Signs of distress caused by the illness can be reflected in the patterns of a person's voice and breathing.

"These voice samples will be analysed using an AI [Artificial Intelligence]-based algorithm in order to identify the unique vocal 'fingerprint'," the ministry said in a statement.

The algorithim could be used for remote diagnosis and monitoring of COVID-19 patients, said Tal Wenderow, CEO of Vocalis Health, the company that developed the mobile app.

At this stage of research, the app will only be used to gather samples from patients in collaboration with medical workers, but the company's website allows for anyone to send vocal samples to researchers.

Researchers hope overburdened healthcare systems across the world could use the data to prioritise testing and hospitalisation, enabling those with minor symptoms to stay at home.

The study's initial results are expected within six weeks.

Israel has reported 1,930 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including three fatalities.

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