The week before spring break, Apple held one of their big keynote events to discuss a new range of products they’re releasing in the near future. The one that is getting the most attention is, of course, the Apple Watch. Their new product line synchronizes with your iPhone to bring your calls, texts, tweets, workout information, music and more to your wrist. They’re fancy, to be sure, although Apple will be charging you a hefty sum to reap those benefits come April 24 (they start at $349).
Apple also announced the release of a new line of MacBooks to be launched April 10. Thinner than even the MacBook Air, sporting a 12” Retina Display, and featuring a redesign that requires no fans, the new laptops come in different colors and $1,299 and $1,599 options depending upon the storage and processing power you’re looking for. The lightweight design seems great for daily use, but it will certainly be questioned why Apple decided to remove all but two ports on the computer (USB-C and a headphone jack), expecting customers to buy an extra dongle to connect older USB, HDMI and Ethernet devices.
Both of these products have great aesthetics and polarizing features, in typical Apple fashion. But the product Apple announced before these two, the one getting the least fanfare by far, is the one that truly has the potential to change the world.
The software that I’m referring to is a new app developer tool called ResearchKit. What this tool does is remarkable: it allows developers to essentially create medical research programs for your phone. There are already a few apps taking advantage of this feature, such as mPower (for Parkinson’s research), MyHeart (for heart disease), and GlucoSuccess (for diabetes). That’s right — at no cost, you can contribute to medical research right through your iPhone without having to sign up and go to a hospital or research center. This is accomplished through tests you can take on the iPhone. For example, if I want to contribute to Parkinson’s research, one test will have me tap my fingers on the screen as fast as I can to see if I’m shaking or unable to hit the buttons. Another will have me walk 20 steps forward and back in a straight line, with the iPhone’s motion processor detecting if I can do so steadily. This means that the researchers get data on a more regular basis if you use the app frequently, and just as amazingly, it can help you determine whether there’s a correlation between your lifestyle and these diseases to help you take preventative measures to either lessen their effects or not get them in the first place.
There is the minor caveat that the motion processors needed to run these apps are only in the iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus, but then again, tons of people have these phones, and it is a feature that is free and built into the devices. Apple’s ResearchKit and the apps utilizing it are, in my opinion, an awesome addition to the company’s products that could make a huge impact on our health — which is quite a bit more important than accessing Twitter on my wrist.
Collegian Columnist Dan Rice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @danriceman.