Future AirPods may track your movements and provide feedback

Future AirPods may track your movements and offer feedback. Apple has filed for a patent (number 10,277.973) for a “wireless ear bud system with pose detection.

The ear buds would be used to provide audio information to a user while using orientation sensors such as accelerometers to gather orientation information. A host electronic device — most likely an Apple Watch, but an iPhone could work — would communicate wirelessly with the ear buds. During operation, the AirPods could be used to provide a user with exercise routine coaching such as audible instructions while a user is performing an exercise routine such as a head movement routine. 

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The head movement routine may involve, for example, moving the user's head into a sequence of predefined head poses (e.g., left tilt, forward tilt, right tilt, and back tilt). Feedback such as audible feedback may be provided to a user based on evaluation of user performance of the head movement routine. Other suitable actions may be taken such as issuing performance reports and alerts. If desired, additional sensors may be used in gathering orientation data during user movement routines and additional evaluation, guidance, and feedback operations may be performed. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the patent: “Ear buds may have sensors to gather orientation information such as accelerometer measurements during user movements. A host electronic device may communicate wirelessly with the ear buds and may form part of an ear bud system that supplies the user with coaching and feedback while evaluating user performance of a head movement routine or other exercise routine. 

“During operation, the ear buds may gather accelerometer data in a first reference frame such as a reference frame associated with the ear buds and may use a rotation matrix to rotate the data in the first reference frame into a second reference frame such as a neutral reference frame with a fixed orientation to the earth. The data in the neutral reference frame may be analyzed using a user head pose look-up table to categorize measured user head positions as corresponding to respective user head poses.”

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.