Apple Researching How to Use iPhone Cameras to Detect Childhood Autism

iPhone 13 camera

Apple is reported to be researching ways to use iPhone cameras to observe children’s behavior and help with the early detection of childhood autism.

The story reiterates earlier research efforts at Apple. The company wants to use iPhone cameras to track children’s faces and observe various facial behaviors, including how often children look away, as potential signs of childhood autism.

Apple hasn’t disclosed this partnership but a Wall Street Journal report claims that the company is collaborating with Duke University with the intention to create an algorithm that detects childhood autism. According to people familiar with the work, the research revolves around using iPhone cameras to observe how young children focus, how often they sway back and forth, and monitor other parameters indicative of autism.

Earlier, an American biotechnology company called Biogen announced that it had partnered with Apple to study the cognitive decline in users or potential signs of depression. These studies relied on using the iPhone and Apple Watch. Considering this and Apple’s work in childhood autism detection, the Journal reported that the autism detection feature may never become available to end-users. However, Apple did invest in several heart-related studies before releasing related features for the Apple Watch. This means that the study could play an instrumental role in the development of a closely related feature.

Keeping Apple’s privacy-centric policies in mind, the report noted that the company would eventually have to run any algorithms, including those for detecting childhood autism, locally on the user’s device. This would eliminate the need to collect and send data to Apple and third parties for processing, thereby ensuring more privacy.

It should be noted that although Apple executives are enthusiastic about the study’s potential, the research is still in the early stages and Apple reportedly hasn’t spoken much about it.

[via Wall Street Journal]