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Apple ResearchKit 2 updates include iOS 12 UI, audio and vision tests

Though Apple briefly announced at WWDC last week that it would be updating its iOS medical testing and research software development framework ResearchKit, the specific changes weren’t spotlighted during Tim Cook’s keynote. Now a list of ResearchKit 2.0 tweaks is available from Apple’s official ResearchKit blog, and there are significant improvements, including a much nicer UI and major new tests.

Most conspicuous is an update to the look of ResearchKit forms, which in prior version 1.5 used the understated and questionably legible small and thin font design originated years ago in iOS 7. The new forms feature large iOS 12-style boldface headers, white capsule sections on a gray background, and buttons that automatically attach to the bottom of any sized screen. A newly integrated PDF viewer lets users navigate, edit, and share PDF documents. All of these changes will make filling out forms earlier, particularly for older iOS users who are most likely to participate in ResearchKit studies.

Apple has also added a collection of new ResearchKit tasks to help researchers easily collect additional types of information. Most are focused on audio, including a dBHL hearing test, a speech-against-noise hearing test, and a speaking test with AI-assisted speech recognition. Additionally, an Amsler Grid visual test lets users open one eye at a time to mark perceived distortions on a grid.

The company also announced that it will be changing ResearchKit’s release schedule “to allow for more participation from the community.” Going forward, the company will give developers adequate time to learn about new changes, make suggestions, and see requests reflected in official stable releases. In January, Apple gave five top ResearchKit GitHub community members write-level permissions, enabling them to help prioritize new feature requests.

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