Editor’s desk: MacBook Pro devolution, Apple Watch and Research, Vaping nannying

16-inch MacBook Pro

This week's was dominated by a few headlines that caught my attention. The first, of course, was Apple's long-awaited introduction of the new 16-inch MacBook Pro. The next came when Apple announced the release of its Research app and announced three studies designed to work with it, all on the same day as Stanford researchers offered up the full results of their 2017 Apple Watch heart study. The final thing was Apple's controversial decision to nix the availability of vaping apps on the App Store - which isn't sitting right with medical marijuana advocates, especially. Let's dive right in.

Apple releases new Research app and announces three studies

Apple Heart Research Study

Apple on Thursday announced the release of a new Research app for users of the iPhone and Apple Watch. The app enables users to participate in medical research studies similar to the Stanford Apple Watch Heart Study. Apple also announced three studies that will use data from the Research app.

ResearchKit gains 3 new active tasks researchers can incorporate into their studies

Apple launched its open source ResearchKit framework two years ago.

At the Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this week, the company announced some interesting updates for Research Kit version 1.5.

Researchers and app developers can now gather new types of data by taking advantage of three new “active tasks”. A new video instruction step makes it easier for apps to display rich video content to users from either a local or remote source.

“We have also updated the Tone Audiometry active task to include both a left and right button,” notes Apple. “This update will let participants not only indicate when they hear the tone but they can now also specify which ear they hear it in.”

The following new tasks are available as part of ResearchKit 1.5:

for: This test measures selective attention by asking participants to focus their attention on one stimulus and ignore another. The test displays concordant and discordant combinations of text and tint to the user who must ignore the text and instead select the button that reflects the first letter of the tint color. Trail Making: This active task measures visual attention and task switching by asking participants to connect a series of alternating labelled circles by tapping the circles on the screen in the correct sequence. Range of Motion: This test lets you measure both the flexed and extended positions for the shoulder and knee. When participants are ready with their device in the proper position they can simply tap the screen to indicate they are ready to proceed. As users complete the test, data from the accelerometer and gyroscope is recorded.

ResearchKit allows researchers and developers to create apps for medical research that use iPhone's many sensors to gather valuable data from the participants. With it, developers and researchers can incorporate visual consent flows, real-time dynamic active tasks and surveys into their apps.

ResearchKit works seamlessly with HealthKit, allowing researchers to access relevant data for their studies (with user consent), things like daily step counts, calorie use and heart rate.

Apple pushes further into health space with CareKit

In addition to new iPhones and iPads, Apple on Monday also announced a new software framework called CareKit. The initiative is an extension to ResearchKit, which launched last year to give hospitals and University's a way to conduct broad medical studies using iOS devices.

CareKit uses similar principles to help individuals keep track of care plans, as well as monitor their symptoms and medication. The goal is to provide insights that help people better understand their health, which may encourage them to take a more active role in their wellbeing.

Apple’s ResearchKit now enabling new studies on autism, epilepsy and melanoma

ResearchKit, Apple's platform for medical research based on the Health app and iOS devices, is now enabling new studies on autism, epilepsy and melanoma, the company said in a media release today.

Tapping into data gathered from participants using iPhone apps; medical data from the Health app such as weight, blood pressure and glucose levels; and other data measured by third-party devices and the iPhone's accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors—researchers can study autism, epilepsy and melanoma in greater detail than was possible before.

Apple working with researchers to build ResearchKit apps for gathering DNA data

Apple is collaborating with US researchers to launch apps that would allow iPhone owners to get their DNA tested, according to a new report from MIT's Technology Review. The apps are based on ResearchKit, a software platform Apple introduced in March that helps researchers gather data.

If true, Apple would join a growing battle for genetic information. Everyone from Google, to the government, to top universities are spending millions of dollars to amass large databases of DNA info in an effort to uncover clues that would help identify causes and possible cures for diseases.

Apple’s ResearchKit available today to developers and medical researchers

Today, Apple's made good on its promise to make ResearchKit available to developers and medical researchers. As announced in a media release Tuesday, medical researchers can tap into ResearchKit to write custom apps while developers are permitted to contribute new research modules to ResearchKit.

ResearchKit was designed as an open source software framework to help doctors and scientists mass-gather accurate data from participants using specialized iPhone apps. With today's ResearchKit release, it's now possible to create medical apps for Android in a true open-source fashion.

IBM expanding partnership with Apple to transform medical research

IBM announced on Monday that it will be expanding its partnership with Apple in an effort to help transform medical research. Utilizing its Watson artificial intelligence tech, it's created a new Health Cloud platform that can support health data gathered by iOS apps using Apple's ResearchKit and HealthKit frameworks.

Apple first introduced HealthKit in the summer of last year, as a platform for developers to create apps that integrate with iOS 8's new Health application. This year, it decided to build on that premise with ResearchKit, which allows medical researchers to collect app data from users with diseases such as diabetes or cancer.

IBM will push things even further with Health Cloud, which will de-identify and store health data in a secure, scalable cloud system that enables researchers to access and share data in an open ecosystem environment. Apps that use HealthKit and ResearchKit will be able to easily store, aggregate and model data, enriching research.