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Apple’s health plans: iPhone sensors to check mental illness

Apple has ambitious plans for new health functions: The company is working on technology to detect depression, dementia and early childhood autism, like that Wall Street Journal reported with reference to informed persons and documents. Apple wants to increasingly use the sensors of the iPhone, including the front camera of the smartphones to capture facial expressions and the attention of the user.

To this end, Apple is working with a biotech company and external scientists. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) are already using iPhones in a study to record the subjects’ facial expressions, the way they speak and the typing behavior. write that Wall Street Journal. Data on movement sequences, sleep and vital signs would also be collected via Apple Watch.

Among other things, the data set provides researchers with information on emotions, the ability to concentrate and the state of mind – in combination with surveys of the study participants, the aim is to find out to what extent conclusions can be drawn about depression, stress and anxiety disorders.

According to information from the newspaper, similar device data are to be collected in the study carried out together with the biotech group Biogen, which aims to identify cognitive impairments. These can be the first signs of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. The study, which will run for several years, is now to begin.

Apple hopes to ultimately develop algorithms from this that allow the detection of certain mental illnesses, it says in the report – and to integrate this as a function in its operating systems. The studies are still in a very early phase. Since the things recorded by the iPhone camera and microphone are particularly sensitive data, they should only be processed locally on the device in order to anticipate data protection concerns, notes the business newspaper.

More from Mac & i

More from Mac & i

More from Mac & i

According to the report, Apple is also working with Duke University to research the detection of early childhood autism. Here, too, the iPhone camera should be used to record how children focus on screen content and how often their gaze wanders.

Apple’s health initiative has so far primarily focused on the Apple Watch, but now seems to focus more on the much more widespread iPhone. With iOS 15, the iPhone can use the motion sensors to record walking stability and also indicate a possible risk of falling.


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