Apple’s ResearchKit, an open source initiative that turns your iPhone into “a powerful tool for medical research by helping doctors, scientists and other researchers gather data more frequently and more accurately from participants,” is now enabling new research studies on autism, epilepsy, and melanoma. Apple made the announcement of the new studies on Oct. 15, adding that more than 50 researchers are already adding to the open source framework.
Early detection of autism
Duke University and Duke Medicine have launched “Autism & Beyond” for parents with concerns about their children related to autism and other developmental issues. Using a special app for the iPhone, researchers from Duke are evaluating whether or not the front-facing camera on the device can be used to detect signs of developmental issues at an earlier age. Emotion detection algorithms will be used to meausre a child’s reaction to videos shown on the phone.
Studying and monitoring epileptic seizures
In epilepsy research, Johns Hopkins has developed the EpiWatch app, the first study of its kind to be conducted with Apple Watch using ResearchKit. The study will try to determine whether the wearable device’s sensors can be used to detect th eonset and duration of seizures. A custom complication on Apple Watch will provide patients with one-touch access to trigger EpiWatch, which will then capture accelerometer and heart rate sensor data to “capture the digital signature of their seizure and send an alert to a loved one.”
Improving skin health through early melanoma detection
Last but not least, Oregon Health and Science University is conducting research into using digital images taken on an iPhone to learn about mole growth and melanoma risks, possibly helping people better manage the health of their skin.
It is definitely refreshing to see the iPhone being used for something other than Candy Crush Saga, and I’m excited to learn what researchers are able to do using iOS devices and Apple Watch. ResearchKit is a terrific initiative, and it’s fascinating to see the various sensors and other components of the iPhone and Apple Watch being used for medical research.