Apple has filed for a patent (number 9,699,546) for “earbuds with biometric sensing” that hints at future AirPods with enhanced capabilities. The invention involves earbuds configured with one or more biometric sensors.
At least one of the biometric sensors is configured to be pressed up against a portion of the tragus (prominence on the inner side of the external ear, in front of and partly closing the passage to the organs of hearing) for making biometric measurements.
The housing of the earbud can be symmetric so that the earbud can be worn interchangeably in either a left or a right ear of a user. In such an embodiment, the earbud can include a sensor and circuitry configured to determine and alter operation of the earbud in accordance to which ear the earbud is determined to be positioned within.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that users of portable electronic device (iPhones and iPads) have shown increasing interest in biometric tracking biometric sensors often need to be in close or even direct contact with the skin to properly measure and track biometric parameters along the lines of heart rate, VO.sub.2, and core temperature. Apple says that requiring a user to place a sensor in direct contact with the skin to track these types of biometric data can be overly burdensome, making adoption of the biometric tracking more difficult. Apple thinks it has a solution — or, at least, is working on one.
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.