ResearchKit steps up AV features, adds new testing abilities

By Heather Mack
Share

A little more than two years after the debut of ResearchKit, Apple has released a fresh iteration to drive the momentum and sophistication of app-based research projects. This comes on the heels of the company’s annual WWDC, during which Apple announced new health features to the Apple Watch.

Along with audiovisual enhancements and improved user interface for both developers and study participants, Apple added some new active task features to ResearchKit. One test, called Stroop, is designed to measure selective attention, meaning the participant would be tested for their ability to ignore one stimulus and focus on another. Trail Making, also an attention test, asks users to tap alternating labeled circles on the screen to connect in a specific sequence.

Those features could be popular with many researchers and developers, as the proliferation of neurocognitive assessment apps shows. It’s also in-line with the therapeutic focus of some of ResearchKit’s earliest projects (namely, the mPower study on Parkinson’s disease).

Moving onto the purely physical, the new Range of Motion test allows researchers to measure flexed and extended positions for the shoulder and knee. Study participants tap the screen to indicate they are ready to proceed, and the test records data from connected accelerometers and gyroscopes. 

As ResearchKit has matured over the years, it hasn’t been without criticism. For example, there have been questions about retention rates, Android compatibility and privacy and security. But the medical research platform has nevertheless evolved, moving on from studies of highly prevalent disease like asthma into the rare disease realm,  nd more evidence suggesting the feasibility of smartphone-only studies supports the idea that ResearchKit innovation isn’t going to slow down any time soon.