Microprocessing

Amazon Halo’s Body Scan Feature Isn’t Just Dangerous — It’s Also Potentially Useless

The feature uses photos to track body fat percentage and to create a 3D model of your body

Angela Lashbrook
OneZero
Published in
8 min readSep 3, 2020

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Photo: Amazon

The moment Amazon announced its first fitness band, the $99 Amazon Halo, my social feeds lit up with bafflement and concern over its emotion-detecting software, which listens to your speech to discern your mood. While tracking voice tone is certainly strange, I was immediately far more concerned about the Halo’s body-scanning feature. The feature requires users to take several photos of their body from different angles with their smartphone, which the app then analyzes for body fat percentage. The app also creates a 3D model of the user’s body, on which they can move a slider to see how their body would look with more or less body fat.

Though my struggles with disordered eating and body image are relatively minor compared to what a lot of people have to deal with, and I’ve come a long way, this feature makes me extremely uncomfortable. I already have a bad habit of looking at old images of myself and comparing my current weight to when I was lighter or heavier; the thought of having artificial intelligence make a 3D mockup of my body minus five body fat percentage points would be detrimental to my mental health. If this product had come out when I was 17, or even 22, it may have been disastrous.

It’s difficult to imagine a feature that could be more painful to people at risk of developing or already living with eating disorders or body image issues. Even if you don’t have such issues, the feature still has significant drawbacks — namely, there’s little proof that it’ll help you live healthier.

“In terms of who this could be helpful for, I’m not entirely sure.”

There is evidence that for people who want to lose weight and don’t have acute body image issues, tracking their weight on a regular basis — aka, one of the basic functionalities available on nearly every fitness tracker on the market — helps them lose weight and keep it off. But there’s far less evidence indicating the same for tracking body fat percentage, which is a newer, far…

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Angela Lashbrook
OneZero

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.