Future Apple iPhone Devices Might Track Your Emotional Well Being

Apple iPhone 13
Mental health is a topic that has been gaining some much-needed attention in recent years, including some interesting research being conducted by Apple, according to a new report. It is said Apple is working with the University of California, Los Angeles and a pharmaceutical company called Biogen on research that could find its way to future iPhone devices.

Up to this point, Apple's focus on health has mostly been centered on its Apple Watch devices, with various monitoring sensors and related software tools. However, Apple is said to be looking into ways its iPhone handsets could detect mental states such as depression, as well pick up on signs of cognitive decline that could be a precursor to diseases like Alzheimer's.

People who are supposedly familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal that the research projects are in the early stages, and might never see the light of day. It is interesting to think that they could, though, given the implications.

It's a challenging field. A proper mental diagnosis is reserved for flesh and blood experts, not machines. However, there is research out there that indicates people with mental health conditions use their devices in a different manner. With that in mind, it could be possible to develop algorithms and software tools that might pick up on different triggers or signs.

It's said that UCLA's researchers began a pilot program last year, in which it leveraged Apple Watch and iPhone data from 150 people to study signs of stress and anxiety, in addition to depression. They're apparently planning to expand the study to 3,000 people this year.

There's a privacy element that comes into play with this sort of thing. These technologies would tap into a phone's camera and pick up audio cues, as well as keyboard data. This would be analyzed in conjunction with Apple Watch data, and specifically a person's movements and sleep patterns, among other things.

"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 article states.

That's quite a bit to trust Apple with, in regards privacy. This applies both to the data collection, and the analysis. We imagine not everyone will be keen with a big company like Apple being able to analyze their every movement, and then determine if they might be depressed or stressed, as discussed in the article.

We'll have to see what comes out of this, if anything, but it is certainly interesting.