Future AirPods from Apple may be equipped with biometric sensors, as hinted by a new Apple patent (number 2018006321) for “earbuds with compliant member.” Such wearables could track a user’s heart rate, core temperature, and more for exercise and health purposes.
Apple says that portable electronic device users 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.
However, requiring a user to place a sensor in direct contact with the skin to track these types of biometric data can be a pain, making adoption of the biometric tracking more difficult. Apple says that, consequently, mechanisms for unobtrusively measuring biometric parameters are highly desirable.
According to the patent filing, at least one of the AirPods’ 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.
In some embodiments, 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 sitting in.
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.