Israeli defence ministry launches coronavirus voice-test study

An Israeli start-up company working with hospitals and academic institutions will sample voices of confirmed coronavirus patients through a mobile application

Analysis of Covid-19 patients’ voices could yield a “vocal fingerprint” to help detect symptoms of the disease in others and prioritise testing and treatment, the Israeli Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

From this week, an Israeli start-up company, Vocalis Health, will work with hospitals and academic institutions to collect samples using a mobile app in a research project led by the ministry.

“These voice samples will be analysed using an AI-based algorithm in order to identify the unique vocal fingerprint,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to artificial intelligence.

The coronavirus affects the respiratory system and signs of distress can be reflected in the patterns of a person’s voice and breathing.

Tal Wenderow, president and chief executive of Vocalis Health, said the algorithm would be used for remote diagnosis and monitoring.

At this stage, the app would be used only by medical staff working with the patients involved in the study, but the company’s website enables anyone to take part and send a voice sample to the researchers.

Researchers hope that healthcare systems will be able to use the data to prioritise testing and hospital admissions, allowing patients with mild symptoms to stay at home.

The ministry said the monitoring “can be conducted from afar, in order to prevent the spread of the disease and overburdening of the national healthcare system”.

Initial results are expected within six weeks.

Israel has reported 1,930 coronavirus cases and three deaths.