​New Fitbit patent targets depression and bipolar detection

Fitbit has been increasingly focused on mental health, and it seems it’s investigating further ways to track your psychological wellbeing.

The company has filed a new patent for technology that can study mental wellbeing from physiological data. And it seems that Fitbit is targeting those with clinical mental health issues

The patent is vague about the mental health issue it’s targeting, but mentions depression and bipolar specifically.And it has outlined a device that can “screen for and predict mental health issues and cognitive states.”

Fitbit talks about using resting heart rate and sleep data, and how that can be interpreted by Fitbit to assess mental health. This is already part of its Stress Management feature, but the patent augments this with some pretty future-looking metrics.

And curiously, gamification plays a large part in the patent.

fitbit game mental health

The patent outlines how games are currently used to assess mental health, and there seems to be an element of this in technology. Fig 1A and 1D show games on the Fitbit wearable itself, which presumably would used in conjunction with sensor data to assess cognitive states.

And there seems to be other ideas about how data could be captured, which could be more controversial.

The patent abstract also talks about using the microphone to examine user’s voice – which could reveal signals about mental health. Fitbit notes this would require users to opt in.

Fitbit also notes that vocal data has already been studied as part of bipolar diagnosis, but this would require an “extended analytical period” on the device.

fitbit range

Fitbit devices already track stress

Fitbit says this technology would feed into “predicting, modelling and correlating with mental health episodes and disorders.” The patent talks about “machine learning trained algorithms and individual event predictions”, which we assume means correlating with existing known mental health disorders.

The patent names Conor Heneghan, who is Fitbit’s (and Google’s) Senior Staff Research Scientist – and has been at the forefront of developing many of its sleep-related features.

It seems Fitbit wants to move beyond the stress and EDA-based data and start to look at more serious, clinical mental health issues.

If your Fitbit could act as a predictor, in whatever form that might be, then it could be useful to millions more people.

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