Apple recently operated with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and a pharmaceutical company called Biogen Inc., which concentrates explicitly on behavioral studies. Altogether, they started multiple programs. "Seabreeze" is Apple's code name for the UCLA project and "Pi" is the code name for the Biogen project.
Biogen's research will continue for two years and includes 20,000 participants who are at "high risk of cognitive impairment." This pharmaceutical company is best known for producing Aduhelm, a drug that is meant for the early onset of Alzheimer's.
Apple's joint study with UCLA began its initial phase last year and had 3,000 participants. The goal of this research is to test anxiety and depression in users.
Participants in the research "will track data from the iPhone's video camera, keyboard and audio sensors, and data from the watch related to movement, vital signs and sleep, according to the documents and people familiar with the study."
"The data that may be used includes analysis of participants' facial expressions, how they speak, the pace and frequency of their walks, sleep patterns, and heart and respiration rates. They may also measure the speed of their typing, frequency of their typos and content of what they type, among other data points, according to the people familiar with the research and the documents," the outlet noted.
Until now, Apple's health initiatives have been mostly revolving around the Apple Smart Watch, but the company now notes, health is becoming a topline issue.
Apple’s reported effort comes as a growing body of research in recent years shows that usage of the company’s own devices could be contributing to mental health issues.
A 2019 study from researchers at the University of Arizona found that smartphone territory among 18 to 20 year-olds “predicts higher reports of depressive symptoms and loneliness.” A 2017 paper from San Diego and Florida State researchers stressed that heavy usage of smartphones and social media among teens was associated with higher rates of mental health issues and suicide.
Yet Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who heads the company’s health unit, has “enthusiastically” told employees that the company has the potential to help address rising rates of anxiety and depression, sources told the Journal.
Any bid by Apple to recognize mental health problems would unavoidably raise issues of privacy for some users — and the company has already faced an objection this year from privacy supporters over a plan to scan users’ images for child pornography, leading Apple to postpone and modify the feature.