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Future iPhones could detect depression, autism in children, says report

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What you need to know

  • Apple is reportedly working on major health upgrades to the iPhone.
  • A new report says that it is working on a feature that could detect depression and cognitive decline in users.
  • Apple is also reportedly trying to create an algorithm that could detect childhood autism.

A new report into Apple says the company is working on ways to detect depression, cognitive decline, and even childhood autism using future iPhones.

WSJ reports:

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, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The tech would use sensor data that includes mobility, activity, sleeping patterns, and more, using algorithms to detect changes that could indicate conditions like depression. Whilst the report notes the research is in early stages and could never make it to market, it states that Apple "hopes that would become the basis for unique features for its devices."

Alongside measuring depression and cognitive decline, Apple is also apparently working on building an algorithm that could detect childhood autism:

Apple has a third brain-related research partnership with Duke University that it hasn't disclosed. It aims to create an algorithm to help detect childhood autism, according to the documents and people familiar with the work. The research looks at using the iPhone's camera to observe how young children focus, how often they sway back and forth, and other measures, according to the documents.

Apple released iOS 15 this week for all of its best iPhones including iPhone 13. It includes new Health updates announced at WWDC including a new Walking Steadiness metric to help manage fall risk, as well as a new feature to store COVID-19 vaccination records or test results directly in the health app.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.

1 Comment
  • Nice to see that Apple has learned NOTHING from their “Hey let’s scan every picture on every device” disaster. Now they want to introduce even more intrusive spying crap? The LAST thing I want is a phone that uses “sensor data that includes mobility, activity, sleeping patterns, and more, using algorithms to detect changes that could indicate conditions like depression.” Why would Apple want to track my mental state? Does NO ONE at Apple see how wrong all of this is?