Apple is developing technology that could see iPhones capable of detecting depression, anxiety and cognitive decline.
The tech giant just released iOS 15 into the world. ‘FaceTime updates provide more natural video calls, Focus helps users reduce distraction, new features like Live Text use on-device intelligence to surface useful information, upgrades to Maps provide brand new ways to navigate the world, and much more,’ its website reads.
However, Apple has far bigger plans for its customers beyond tightening and refining the user experience. Coming after the introduction of heart, sleep and activity monitoring on iPhone and Apple Watch, mental health tools may be the latest expansion to the firm’s portfolio.
Insiders have revealed Apple to be collaborating with the University of California (UCLA) and biotech firm Biogen on creating technology that could accurately detect depression and other conditions, The Wall Street Journal reports.
This would involve ‘using an array of sensor data that includes mobility, physical activity, sleep patterns, typing behaviour and more’, the publication notes, with researchers hoping algorithms will accurately and reliably detect conditions based on ‘digital signals associated with the target conditions’. Insiders told the WSJ data could be collected by monitoring facial expressions, tone of voice, how often a person goes for a walk and their quality of sleep. It could also look at how quickly a person types, and how many typos they make.
Both UCLA and Biogen are carrying out their own research projects in connection with the tech. UCLA will explore stress, anxiety and depression with 3,000 participants, looking at data from the iPhone camera, keyboard and audio sensors along with the Apple Watch’s data on movement, sleep and vital signs.
While Biogen is hoping to recruit 20,000 people for a study spanning two years, tracking their cognitive function and looking for any sort of impairments. While in its early stages, Apple’s COO Jeff Williams is said to be enthusiastic about the technology.
After the controversy around its software to detect child abuse on their phones, stoking fears around privacy, it’s believed the health data would be stored only on the device, rather than being shared with external servers.