The next-generation Apple Watch will reportedly include mental health monitoring capabilities, including the ability to warn wearers of an oncoming panic attack.
Apple Watch Series 6 and WatchOS 7, both currently in the works, will roll out mental health-focused features, according to tech analyst and well-known leaker Jon Prosser in an appearance on the Geared Up podcast.
Rumors have claimed that the next Apple Watch will include a blood-oxygen sensor, a feature that Prosser said Apple will use for new mental health features, including the detection of panic attacks.
Through the sensor, the Apple Watch will be able to monitor blood-oxygen levels, and combined with heart rate readings, will determine if its wearer is hyperventilating, according to Prosser. This will allow the device to issue a warning when a panic attack is coming, which will be especially useful when the wearer is behind the wheel, as the Apple Watch will ask the driver to pull over and offer breathing exercises.
Prosser said that he hopes the new mental health features of the Apple Watch will be revealed in this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, though he noted that they may come next year. It is unlikely that the capabilities will be unveiled until the fall, when the Apple Watch Series 6 is expected to be announced, though there is a possibility that they will make an appearance at WWDC if older models are already equipped to monitor blood oxygen levels, according to MacRumors.
The plethysmograph heart rate sensor technology of the Apple Watch is technically able to take blood-oxygen level readings. It is unclear why Apple has not yet taken advantage of the ability, but it could be linked to the accuracy of the technology or the requirement for regulatory approval, according to AppleInsider.
Snippets of iOS 14 code fueled rumors that the Apple Watch Series 6 will be able to measure blood oxygen levels. The code, acquired by 9to5Mac, revealed that the new feature will function similarly to the device’s irregular heart rate alerts, though it is unclear if it will be limited to the next-generation model or if it will also be made available to older models through a software update.
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