Health Tech

Apple wants iPhones to diagnose mental health conditions

It’s working with UCLA and Biogen to research the iPhone’s diagnostic capabilities.
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Black Mirror may be discontinued, but the real world has plenty of dystopia to offer.

For instance...Apple is currently working with researchers at UCLA, and the pharmaceutical company Biogen, to gauge if certain user data could help diagnose depression and cognitive decline, the Wall Street Journal reported.

  • Biogen recently received FDA approval for a new treatment for mild cognitive impairment.

Wait, what? The research partnerships focus on sensor data like users’ typing behavior, facial expressions, physical activity, sleep patterns, and more, and hope to identify “digital signals'' correlated with mental health conditions. The data would be collected via iPhones, and from there, the goal is to train algorithms to detect and help diagnose such conditions.

If this news set off an alarm bell in your head, it’s not necessarily unfounded. Emotion recognition AI based on facial expressions is largely ineffective. Plus, algorithms used for any sort of medical or diagnostic application can be fraught with bias, leading to real-life harms for vulnerable populations.

But, but, but: Keep in mind that the above partnerships are still in the research stage. Apple itself isn’t using your vacant TikTok-scrolling expression to diagnose anything just yet.

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