Smartphones and Depression

I was very intrigued about this article in the WSJ about whether your smart phone can accurately detect if you’re depressed. According to the article, using facial and acoustic analysis, researchers have established various behavioral biomarkers that may indicate one is depressed. For example, depressed patients don’t enunciate vowels as much. Beyond these biomarkers, technology allows these researchers to measure aspects not always detectable by the eye or ear, such as slight movements in facial muscles. 

As such, experts believe that artificial intelligence “can sense people’s facial expression and behaviors to help doctors do a more objective assessment of mental health”. Researchers are in the process of conducting a clinical trial, monitoring teens at risk of suicide through their smartphones. If the participants express suicidal thoughts or behaviors, the clinical staff and researchers are notified and will take action. 

“Although AI  looks promising for the field of mental health, it faces a long road from the research lab to real-life application”. 

Guiding questions: 

  • How should these researchers continue to address the very important concern of privacy throughout these studies? 
  • How should they address privacy if this technology is one day incorporated into phones? Should people have to opt-in to being monitored?
  • Do the benefits of this analysis and research outweigh the costs?
  • Do you think technology eventually can replace clinicians?
  • What do you think should be the next steps for this?