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Future iPads and iPhones could tell stressed users to calm down

What an iPad could do when it detects that its user is stressed

Apple is researching how to bring its Apple Vision Pro physiognomy sensor technology to give iPads and iPhones the ability to detect stress in a user.

Back in the 1980s, if an original Mac went wrong, it would play the sound of a crash, and display Susan Kare's bomb icon. It was a piece of whimsy that you really, really, really did not appreciate when you'd just lost your work.

Decades on, Apple could be about to make a similarly enraging move, though this time with good intentions. Apple wants to add a new health feature, where a device such as an iPad can tell when you're having a bad day.

A newly-revealed patent application, called just "Stress Detection," is chiefly concerned with how such stress could be determined. But it does make at least some references to what the devices could then do in response.

Apple proposes that devices could "improve a user experience by providing a notification based on an identified stress," which is not in any way going to be irritating. But the device could also provide relaxing content (e.g., meditation virtual content, relaxing music, etc.), which again would be a boon when you're on deadline.

A lit bomb and text saying It's just a horror film. Calm down. with a Whatever button.
This isn't exactly what Apple has in mind, but it could interrupt you with a stress warning at any time

To be clear, it isn't just iPads that might ultimately be smashed against walls. Apple's proposal is for just about any device. Sections of it referring to headsets and virtual environments, for instance, are similar to previous patents regarding the detection of Apple Vision Pro users' physiological state.

Diagram of a stick figure holding a device with a screen, showing lines indicating the figure is viewing and interacting with the screen.
Detail from the patent showing an iPad's Face ID being used for stress detection

This new patent application reads as if it comes from what Apple has learned from making the Apple Vision Pro, such as just what sensors could be used to spot stress. Those include "electro-encephalography (EEG) amplitude, pupil modulation, eye gaze saccades, heart rate, [and] electrodermal activity/skin conductance."

Apple's "Stress Detection" patent application is credited to two inventors. Those include Grant H. Mulliken, who has also worked on attention detection for Apple.