Machine learning could be used to analyse data from many of the iPhone’s existing sensors in order to detect early warning signs.
Apple has put a lot of effort into figuring out how to use its technology for medical purposes. It already has a native iOS sleep tracker that works with sensors on the Apple Watch. It also collaborated with AliveCor to create a watch band that allows the watch to capture medical-grade EKGs, which was approved by the FDA a few years ago.
Apple now believes that the iPhone can aid in the diagnosis of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. Apple researchers are investigating how data such as sleep patterns, mobility, and typing rhythms can be used to detect early signs of mental dysfunction before conditions worsen.
Wall Street Journal sources close to the research say that the iPhone could potentially pinpoint targetted conditions reliably using a combination of sensor data and machine learning algorithms. The Apple Watch already has a good reputation for detecting irregular heart rhythms, and it is not unreasonable to think that conditions that have tell-tale signs could be picked up on by another device that people have with them all the time.
Other possible metrics that the researchers are considering include facial expressions, heart rate, and respiration rate. All data would be collected and analyzed on the device with nothing sent to Apple servers.
Apple has partnered with the University of California, Los Angles, in a project codenamed “Seabreeze” to study conditions that include depression, stress, and anxiety. A pilot study started in 2020 with 150 volunteers will expand to 3,000 participants sometime this year.
Researchers have collaborated with the pharmaceutical company Biogen to investigate cognitive impairment. The codename for this two-year study is “Pi.” According to reports, Biogen’s research began on Monday after receiving FDA approval over the summer. It aims to detect early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It hopes to enrol 20,000 people, with half of them being high-risk subjects.
Because the research is still in its early stages, it will most likely be some time before anything official is announced. Apple, UCLA, and Biogen have all declined to comment.