Apple is reportedly working on iPhone technology capable of detecting and diagnosing depression, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The tech giant is developing the iPhone features to reliably detect and diagnose depression as well as cognitive decline, people familiar with the matter told the WSJ. The technology is being developed in partnership with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and pharmaceutical company Biogen.
The technology is in its early stages of development, according to the WSJ, but will collect data on iPhone users’ mobility and sleep patterns, physical activity, and other behaviors. However, researchers are still unsure whether they can create algorithms that reliably detect the mental health state of users.
Apple, Biogen, and UCLA did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
Apple reportedly acknowledged the potential privacy concerns the technology would raise, according to documents reviewed by the WSJ, and plans to only scan user data on-device, rather than sending personal information back to Apple’s servers. The tech company drew criticism last month for its privacy practices after unveiling a planned update to the iPhone’s operating system that would perform on-device scans of images uploaded to iCloud for child pornography.
UCLA launched a three-year study in August 2020 using information collected from participants’ iPhones and Apple Watches to identify and understand depression and hopefully create new treatments for the disease. The study uses anonymized data to examine the connection between participants’ behaviors on their devices and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Biogen previously announced a partnership with Apple in January 2021 to “investigate the role Apple Watch and iPhone could play in monitoring cognitive performance and screening for decline in cognitive health including mild cognitive impairment,” according to the announcement. The project aims to identify “digital biomarkers” that could indicate cognitive performance.
The company is also currently developing a drug to combat symptoms of depression, which completed Phase 3 trials in June.
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