A person’s phone is basically a treasure trove of TMI, if we’re counting the Camera Roll and your Notes app full of 3 a.m. thoughts. As if those aren’t enough, the next big iPhone update might know you even before you do, thanks to Apple’s plans of a “depression detector.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the tech giant’s current WIP is an iPhone feature that aims to detect if a user is depressed or suffering from “cognitive decline.” With the help of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and pharmaceutical company Biogen, the phone’s tech will analyze this using sensory data, such as mobility, physical activity, sleep and speech patterns, heart rates, typing speed, and frequency of typos (Ouch).
As it’s currently in the research and development stage, the scientists behind the study will be comparing this data with questionnaires filled out by test users asking how they feel, while collecting hair samples to measure their levels of cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone. UCLA started its pilot phase last year with 150 Apple Watch and iPhone users, and will continue its main phase with 3,000 more people.
For those who like depending on Dr. Google, it must be said that this potential mental health update is meant to help healthcare workers rather than replace them. Dr. Nelson Freimer, director of the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge, noted that much of how depression is treated is based on “subjective recollections of depression sufferers.” The study hopes to find some objective measures for both diagnosis and treatment of this condition.
With the help of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and pharmaceutical company Biogen, the phone’s tech will analyze this using sensory data, such as mobility, physical activity, sleep and speech patterns, heart rates, typing speed, and frequency of typos.
If these researchers think that the data correlates with relevant mental health conditions, then Apple might greenlight an app or feature that warns users about possible cognitive decline in order for them to seek help earlier. While a depression detector isn’t set in stone for the Apple overlords, the report states that executives are “excited” about the possibility to address surging rates of depression and anxiety.
Of course, we can’t help but ponder on the red flags, like that thing on your hand screaming “Depression!” to your face just because you’re a bad speller or if you’re in a perpetual state of Resting Sad Face. Being diagnosed by a non-professional is already troublesome to begin with, and let’s not ignore that mental health issues can sometimes worsen with your phone. (No thanks to you, doomscrolling.)
Still, it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise if we find this update in a not-too-distant iOS, seeing as this isn’t the first tech straight outta “Black Mirror.” It’s just probably best to note that this isn’t a substitute for an actual diagnosis, FYI.
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Art by Yel Sayo