Apple developing top-secret iPhone tech that tracks your emotions

Your iPhone could soon be handing you a depression diagnosis, as leaked papers suggest Apple is developing an AI that quietly assesses your mental health.

Products like the Apple Watch already assess your heart rate and sleep pattern, but it seems the tech giant wants to go much further.

Using sensor data that tracks mobility, exercise, typing patterns, and even facial expressions, future iPhones may look out for tell-tale signs of stress, anxiety, depression, and 'cognitive decline'. Once these are collected, an algorithm would provide a diagnosis.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple have partnered with mental health researchers at the University of California and pharmaceutical company Biogen Inc for the projects, codenamed 'Seabreeze' and 'Pi' respectively, which would detect the conditions and potentially give iPhone users health recommendations.

The company also currently has a research project that aims to create an algorithm to detect childhood autism using the iPhone's camera. A similar effort uses smartphone cameras to track children's physical movement in order to assess for autism symptoms.

Using technology to detect health conditions early can enable quicker intervention and allow people to be treated before symptoms get worse.

  • Parents could assess children for autism with smartphones thanks to new AI tools

Faraz Hussain, the developer of project 'BiAffect' that uses typing data to predict moods, told the WSJ that it could prevent bad outcomes in terms of the user's mental wellbeing.

He said: "It's the ability to peek inside how our mind is functioning instead of relying on self-reports that are often subjective, using digital exhaust from our daily lives that would otherwise be lost."

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While it's unclear whether the research will ever lead to a functioning product, it would undoubtedly use highly sensitive personal data that Apple would need to keep under tight wraps in order to pass legal obstacles.

Most recently, Apple came under heavy fire from consumers and authorities over its plans to secretly scan iPhone users' photo galleries for child pornography. The firm would likely be under similarly heavy scrutiny if they ever went through with this mental health project.

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