A Smartphone that recognises symptoms of depression

Researchers at Northwestern University are in the process of developing online-based, mobile and virtual technologies to help treat depression and other mood disorders. Their latest press release stated that they are in the process of developing Smartphone technologies that can recognise depression symptoms in the user’s activities.

The technology which has been given the name ‘Mobilyze!’ is said to be able to recognise symptoms of depression by examining sensor data within the phone to record a user’s location, activity levels which uses the accelerometer capabilities within the phone, social context and mood levels.

The Smartphone will record the user’s phone use the number of calls being made, number of emails with technologies being able to recognise whether they are from friends or regarded as junk emails, the phone also has the capacity to recognise if the person is home alone for extended periods of time. The Smartphone will then over time be able to establish and recognise patterns of behaviour and recognise when symptoms of depression may arise for example in times of isolation with reduced social contact, subsequently it will prompt the user to call or visit a friend.

The researchers are optimistic that the new technologies will help avoid episodes of depression by prompting depression alleviating behaviour such as social contact and exercise . However questions arise about whether the average Smartphone user will want technologies recording their every move and about potential security breaches that could occur if this sort of information ended up in the wrong hands.

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