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Apple Working on iPhone Features to Detect Depression — WSJ

According to a brand new report from The Wall Street Journal today, Apple is studying new ways to bring features to IPhone that would help detect depression, anxiety, autism and cognitive decline.

Apple Inc. is working on technology to help diagnose depression and cognitive decline, aiming for tools that could expand the scope of its burgeoning health portfolio, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal

– The Wall Street Journal

According to the report, all of this is very early in testing / studying, but “top Apple executives” are “excited”.

Of course, Apple’s first priority (as always) is privacy — so the new features would work on-device, as opposed to Apple scanning the data on their own servers.

The data that may be used includes analysis of participants’ facial expressions, how they speak, the pace and frequency of their walks, sleep patterns, and heart and respiration rates. They may also measure the speed of their typing, frequency of their typos and content of what they type, among other data points, according to the people familiar with the research and the documents

– The Wall Street Journal

For the most part, all of the tools Apple would need for this project already exist. They already track your health data, sleep data, physical activity and more. For your iPhone to be able to diagnose or look for signs of depression, anxiety, autism and cognitive decline, they would just need to implement solid ways to actually analyze the data that they already collect.

The efforts spring from research partnerships that Apple has announced with the University of California, Los Angeles, which is studying stress, anxiety and depression, and pharmaceutical company Biogen which is studying mild cognitive impairment. “Seabreeze” is Apple’s code name for the UCLA project and “Pi” is the code name for the Biogen project, according to the people and documents

– The Wall Street Journal

Features like this tug at things deeply personal to users and I’m sure this sort of thing could freak people out, especially if they aren’t fully aware of how Apple will use the data — but this is one of those things that could be broadly good, and it takes your device a step further than just being “oh look 120Hz how smooth”.

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