Mobile phone diagnosis
An application I fantasized about in a previous blog post, namely a mobile phone application for early detection of depression, is being developed by Cogito Health, a spin-off company from MIT. The company’s algorithms can use speech features like the tone and pitch of a person’s voice, the length and frequency of pauses and speed of speech to detect mood disorders. CEO Joshua Feast says that “…voice analysis software could provide a natural and noninvasive way for nurses to screen for depression during routine phone calls.”
Not only depression but also specific types of coughing can now be detected by phones. According to the article, coughs can be surprisingly complex, but “…even with a limited amount of data, scientists can distinguish between a healthy, voluntary cough and the involuntary cough of a sick person. Healthy people have slightly louder coughs, about 2 percent louder than a sick person.” The name of the application is kind of funny … iCough. If you have iCough installed on your phone, your doctor can ask you to cough into the phone, after which the “…sound can be run through the computer, compared to all known cough profiles, and a diagnosis can be confirmed in a few seconds“.
An even more surprising way of using a mobile phone for diagnostic purposes is to turn it into a microscope. A company Microskia is commercializing technology for low-cost cell imaging developed at the California NanoSystems Institute. According to the inventors, phones modified using cheap off-the shelf hardware plus a special piece of software can detect, for example, “…the asymmetric shape of diseased blood cells or other abnormal cells, or note an increase of white blood cells.” The new technology may prove to be especially helpful for screening for malaria, according to the article.