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AI does a poor job of diagnosing COVID-19 from coughs, study finds


Early in the pandemic, a number of researchers, startups and institutions developed AI systems that they claimed could diagnose COVID-19 from the sound of a person’s cough. At the time, we ourselves were enthusiastic about the prospect of AI that could be yielded as a weapon against the virus; in one headline, we endorsed cough-scrutinizing AI as “promising.”
But a recent study (first reported on by The Register) suggests that some cough-analyzing algorithms are less accurate than we — and the public — were led to believe. It serves as a cautionary tale for machine learning tech in healthcare, whose flaws aren’t always immediately apparent.
Researchers from the Alan Turing Institute and Royal Statistical Society, commissioned by the U.K. Health Security Agency, conducted an independent review of audio-based AI tech as a COVID-19 screening tool. Together wit …

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