Research partnership to use iPhone biometrics to detect depression, cognitive decline
Apple is collaborating with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Biogen on new biometric capabilities for iPhones aimed at detecting depression and signs of cognitive decline via expression recognition and behavioral biometrics.
The collaboration was revealed by The Wall Street Journal, which would have learned about it after speaking with people familiar with the matter and reading documents related to the project.
The novel technology reportedly gathers physiological data of users from a variety of sensors, and it includes mobility, physical activity, sleep patterns, typing behavior, and more.
By simultaneously monitoring this biometric information, researchers are trying to pin down digital signals associated with the target conditions so that reliable algorithms can be created to consistently detect them.
The data gathered as part of the new tests will be compared against standard tests of brain health including traditional cognitive assessments and scans that track plaque buildup in the brain.
If deemed successful in detecting early signs of cognitive decline, the biometric technology may then be integrated into new iPhone models, to potentially address surging rates of depression and anxiety as well as other brain disorders.
Apple has not yet confirmed if the technology will actually make it to its devices, as it is still at an experimental stage.
However, the Cupertino-based company has intensified its health-related efforts in recent years, suggesting it will keep exploring technologies in this space.
In fact, this is not the first health biometrics monitoring collaboration between Apple and Biogen, with a similar one being unveiled in January this year.
According to the new documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the January study will last two years and follow 20,000 participants, half of whom are at high risk of cognitive impairment.