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Your smartphone can determine your level of intoxication

In an innovative approach to public health and safety, a recent study suggests that everyday technology, like smartphones, could play a pivotal role in reducing alcohol-related accidents by determining if you are intoxicated.

This study, a collaborative effort between Stanford Medicine and the University of Toronto, uncovers how smartphones and smart speakers might be utilized to assess a person’s alcohol intoxication through changes in their voice.

How the study was conducted

The research involved 18 adult participants, all above the legal drinking age, who were administered a weight-based dose of alcohol.

In an effort to measure the impact of alcohol intoxication on speech, they were tasked with articulating tongue twisters before drinking and then repeatedly after consumption, for up to seven hours.

The participants’ intoxicated speech was recorded using smartphones placed nearby, and their breath alcohol concentration was measured throughout the study duration.

Smartphones and intoxication detection

Remarkably, the study achieved a 98% accuracy rate in predicting intoxication levels by analyzing voice patterns on smartphones. This was made possible through sophisticated digital signal processing and machine learning techniques.

“The precision of our model was certainly unexpected,” remarks Dr. Brian Suffoletto of Stanford. He emphasizes that the integration of advanced technology was key to their success. Dr. Suffoletto envisions these findings as a stepping stone to developing “just-in-time interventions.”

The aim is to utilize ubiquitous devices like smartphones to monitor individuals for signs of intoxication and provide timely alerts. This could play a significant role in preventing accidents related to impaired motor functions from alcohol consumption.

Multifaceted approach to monitoring

The research further suggests that the most effective surveillance tools could combine various sensors to track indicators. These could include gait and texting behavior, in addition to voice, to improve accuracy and reliability.

Dr. Suffoletto advocates for more extensive research that includes participants from diverse ethnic backgrounds to solidify the reliability of voice patterns as an indicator of intoxication through smartphones. He also suggests a collaboration with companies that collect voice data through smart devices to enhance the development of effective interventions.

The study stands as a clarion call to action for the creation of digital biomarker repositories by institutions like the National Institutes of Health. The ultimate aim is to forge an intervention system that is both user-friendly and effective in preventing injuries and saving lives, leveraging the power of technology for societal well-being.

The timely application of such interventions could be crucial, with the greatest impact seen when individuals are just beginning to drink, rather than after significant intoxication has occurred.

The full study is published in the Journal on Alcohol and Drugs.

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