KEY POINTS

  • The undertaking appears to be a part of Apple's partnership with UCLA and Biogen
  • The tech could potentially expand the scope of the company's growing health portfolio
  • Apple hopes it will be the basis for unique features for its devices

Apple is reportedly working with experts to develop a technology that will allow iPhones to collect users' health data and help detect depression and cognitive decline. It aims to record users' sleep patterns, physical activity, mobility and even typing behavior to identify signs of specific conditions.

"Apple Inc. is working on technology to help diagnose depression and cognitive decline, aiming for tools that could expand the scope of its burgeoning health portfolio," a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report said.

"Using an array of sensor data that includes mobility, physical activity, sleep patterns, typing behavior and more, researchers hope they can tease out digital signals associated with the target conditions so that algorithms can be created to detect them reliably. Apple hopes that would become the basis for unique features for its devices," the report added.

This handout image obtained September 14, 2021 courtesy of Apple Inc. shows Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing Greg Joswiak talking about the new iPhone 13 Pro This handout image obtained September 14, 2021 courtesy of Apple Inc. shows Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing Greg Joswiak talking about the new iPhone 13 Pro Photo: Apple Inc. / Handout

The undertaking appears to be a part of the company's partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles under the project codenamed "Seabreeze," which studies stress, depression and anxiety and Biogen's "Pi" project, which aims to "identify digital biomarkers to help monitor cognitive performance and health including potentially detecting mild cognitive impairment."

Apple's technology, which is believed to be one of the future features of its flagship iPhone, is also looking to use facial expression analysis as well as heart and respiration rates as part of its metrics. Apparently, all of the processing will take place on the iPhone and no data will be sent to Apple servers.

The data collected from iPhone and Apple Watch sensors will be compared with the answers participants will provide in the questionnaires about how they feel. The level of the stress hormone cortisol in the hair follicles of the participants will also be monitored, the WSJ report said further.

If the collected data aligns with symptoms of anxiety and depression, Apple can use it to develop an iPhone feature that notifies users of signs of mental health conditions. The device can then alert users to seek professional help, which can be helpful not only in the early detection of health issues but also in improving one's quality of life.