Researchers seeking a way of detecting coronavirus from the sound of a person’s cough or even their voice have launched an app to collect recordings from as many people as possible.
Cambridge University’s Covid-19 Sounds App asks users to submit recordings of them breathing in and out, coughing, and reading the sentence “I hope my data can help to manage the virus pandemic”.
Users are asked if they have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 14 days and if they are still in hospital, though researchers said there is “no way to confirm that whatever a user is inputting is confirmed”.
They are also asked about their age, biological sex, other health conditions, symptoms, whether they are a smoker and their approximate location.
Data, to be stored on university servers, will be used to help develop machine-learning algorithms that could be used for automatic detection of Covid-19.
Professor Cecilia Mascolo, from Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science and Technology, who led the development of the app, said: “The work is about diagnostics and in time, with enough data, we hope that cough or even voice could be used for early diagnosis.
“Apparently both can have quite specific changes in this disease.”
She added: “There’s still so much we don’t know about this virus and the illness it causes, and in a pandemic situation like the one we’re currently in, the more reliable information you can get, the better.”
Prof Mascolo said recordings of people without a diagnosis of coronavirus would act as the “control” in the dataset.
The app, which will not provide any medical advice, will not track users, the university said.
It will only collect location data once when users are actively using it.
Once the team have completed their initial analysis of the data collected by the app they will release the dataset to other researchers.
They say the dataset could help shed light on how the disease progresses and the relationship of the respiratory complication with medical history.
“Having spoken to doctors, one of the most common things they have noticed about patients with the virus is the way they catch their breath when they’re speaking, as well as a dry cough, and the intervals of their breathing patterns,” said Prof Mascolo.
“There are very few large datasets of respiratory sounds, so to make better algorithms that could be used for early detection, we need as many samples from as many participants as we can get.
“Even if we don’t get many positive cases of coronavirus, we could find links with other health conditions.”
– To submit audio recordings, see www.covid-19-sounds.org