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Apple investigates space-age fitness tracking technology

post #1 of 19
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New patent applications revealed this week show that Apple has investigated technology with advanced physiological sensors for measuring workout activity from inside the user's ear canal.

In addition, the iPod maker has also applied for creation of a system to share graphical user interfaces with external accessories.

Apple's advanced performance tracker

Apple currently has a number of fitness-oriented features available in its iPod line, but the Cupertino, Calif., company's latest patent describes an extremely advanced system using unique technology. Among a number of described methods for measuring exertion during physical exercise include sensing light that travels through the user's earlobe to determine blood oxygen levels.

In one of the examples provided in, an earbud could include infrared photodetectors that would measure the user's body temperature, heat flux and heart rate.

"From infrared radiation in the user's ear, sensors... can detect minute temperature variations due to the user's heart beats," the application reads. "Heart rate can be calculated based on time between beats and the user's temperature can be set as the 'DC Component' (or average or median value) of the detected temperature distribution. Other sensors can also be used for tracking the same physiological metrics or different physiological metrics."

In another example, a light source and photodetector allow the hardware to determine a user's blood oxygen content. Such a system would "detect the portion of such light that passes through the user's earlobe, the remaining light having been absorbed within the user's earlobe. From the relative absorption of these two wavelengths of light, the user's blood oxygen content can be calculated."



Yet another example of a potential device describes a user wearing a separate sling to accurately measure their heart rate, and would wirelessly transmit the data to an iPod or iPhone. Such a system could detect anomalies due to the user's movements, and automatically filter them out from the data to give a more accurate reading. The application was filed on July 23, 2009.



Nike already plans to sell a heart rate monitor that would be compatible with the latest iPod nano. The Nike+iPod kit is mentioned in the patent application, but Apple's described methods employ new, more advanced sensors to measure athletes.

Apple in the past has filed patent applications for a number of fitness-related technologies. In one example, the company described an iTunes-like software application that would "interview" the user on their fitness goals, desired activity levels and fitness interests. The software would also utilize hardware-based heart rate and physiological sensors to help users get in better shape.



Media player GUI sharing

Another new application describes a system that would "push" the graphical user interface (GUI) of one device to another. Such a system could allow the user interface of an iPod to be replicated on a dock it is plugged into.

The described system is somewhat similar to the free Apple "Remote" application available for the iPhone and iPod touch on the App Store, which allows users to remotely control iTunes. That software uses Wi-Fi to share artist and track info, as well as playback data and album art from the host computer.

The new system could extend to multiple devices, and aims to make user experiences identical across different hardware. Apple, in the patent application, noted that the current unintuitive systems are frustrating and difficult for most users.

"Certain functions available on the portable media device (such as browsing or searching a database, adjusting playback settings, etc.) may be unavailable or difficult to find. Thus, a user may not be able to perform desired functions," the document reads. "Further, GUIs provided for the same portable media device by different remote control devices might be quite different, and the user who connects a portable media device to different accessories with remote control may find the inconsistencies frustrating."



The described system would allow the GUI of a device to be "defined and managed" by a portable device like an iPod or iPhone, which would provide the graphical images to be displayed. The external accessory would then send user input information back to the media player. The patent application was filed on May 13, 2008.
post #2 of 19
Boy. That's deep.
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post #3 of 19
Otherwise known as Nike+

New day, new Apple patent.
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post #4 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple in the past has filed patent applications for a number of fitness-related technologies. In one example, the company described an iTunes-like software application that would "interview" the user on their fitness goals, desired activity levels and fitness interests. The software would also utilize hardware-based heart rate and physiological sensors to help users get in better shape.

When that story debuted last year, the incredible detail in the screen depictions made it seem that development was very far along. Yet nothing ever came of it.

I think Apple Legal stepped in. Weight lifting and other exercise is one of the biggest causes of accidents within the home, and it's possible Apple didn't want to get drowned in frivolous lawsuits.

Although Nintendo hasn't had huge problems with this so far...
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post #5 of 19
Its cool stuff huh. The oxygen saturation technology was actually developed in the 1940's!! (Thanks Wikipedia) We use pulse oximeters in work on every patient every day, its fairly fool proof, the only problem will be in getting the monitor to apply to the skin effectively. It can be very temperamental.
Even if they do nail it, whats the point? Respiratory rate is the single best indicator of physiological stress. Your oxygen saturations are pretty irrelevant as your body's focus is to adequately perfuse your organs If your O2 sats drop during exercise you faint. Meh
post #6 of 19
Looks like Apple might actually be interested in medical technology - as a medical student I've always thought that the Tablet would be great for doctors.

If only Apple would make a patient record database xD
post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Otherwise known as Nike+

New day, new Apple patent.

I was really disappointed in the nike plus app. Didn't really work the way it was supposed to. The other runners apps were equally disappointing. There are a lot of other "exercise" apps on the mobile web http://m.seego.com/category/health/fitness but I can't imagine using those during a run.

I hope Apple does this, it would be a very cool feature and something I would actually really like to see native in my phone.
post #8 of 19
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post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by hailthehamster View Post

Its cool stuff huh. The oxygen saturation technology was actually developed in the 1940's!! (Thanks Wikipedia) We use pulse oximeters in work on every patient every day, its fairly fool proof, the only problem will be in getting the monitor to apply to the skin effectively. It can be very temperamental.
Even if they do nail it, whats the point? Respiratory rate is the single best indicator of physiological stress. Your oxygen saturations are pretty irrelevant as your body's focus is to adequately perfuse your organs If your O2 sats drop during exercise you faint. Meh

Interesting stuff. Welcome to the forum.

If they have a special in-ear headphone that would be pressing against the skin quite nicely. Not sure if that is a good area for the sensor.

If they can measure both your pulse and oxygen can it not figure out if you need to breath better for a given exercise task based on those two figures? Or at least if I should speed up or slow down my exercise?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ciaran88 View Post

Looks like Apple might actually be interested in medical technology - as a medical student I've always thought that the Tablet would be great for doctors.

If only Apple would make a patient record database xD

That seems like a given. We’ve already seen demos for the iPhone OS devices with medical apps and attachments. I think having a Touch with various accessories for blood pressure, oxygen saturation, etc. will make it into GP offices around the country.
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post #10 of 19
Interesting concept. If it were to turn into something real, I hope they would find a way to make it reliable. Something like this sounds really gimmicky, especially when you have to take into consideration the differences in people's ears. My hope is that this isn't one of those "patent, just to hold the patent" things.
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post #11 of 19
In other news - Microsoft has patented a new line dance.
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post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post

When that story debuted last year, the incredible detail in the screen depictions made it seem that development was very far along. Yet nothing ever came of it.

I think Apple Legal stepped in. Weight lifting and other exercise is one of the biggest causes of accidents within the home, and it's possible Apple didn't want to get drowned in frivolous lawsuits.

Although Nintendo hasn't had huge problems with this so far...

Calisthenics and aerobics are much less likely to screw you up than weightlifting is. If you do a dead lift or a squat without keeping your chest up and your back straight and driving through your heels, you can say goodbye to your lower back.

I lift weights and if Apple is reluctant to bring that into the home that's fine with me. Anyone interested should work with a trainer first and practice, practice, practice.
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post #13 of 19
Most consumers would be very interested in the HRM aspect, less so for O2, but that can be crunched with analysis over time to show fitness improvements.
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post #14 of 19
Yawn...

Call me when Apple gets it's head out of the clouds and makes a device that saves people and companies a lot of money, like desktop publishing did, and fosters a entire industry.

Most people will buy what they need from now on.


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post #15 of 19
Space-Age? What is this, the 50s?
post #16 of 19
I eagerly await the day Apple gets into much needed at-home medical diagnosis and health tracking software. Due to the anticipated changes to our nation's health care, at-home diagnosis would be a real breakthrough. I'm even more surprised Teh Steve hasn't been pushing the company in this direction considering his own issues. We need low-cost solutions that take advantage of the iPhone/iPod touch platform.

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post #17 of 19
I am very disappointed at the low comments rate here. These are thrilling news. The next, obvious step, with our intelligence devices is to monitor our health and fitness and enable us to make our training and lifestyle better.

Time to chuck out that hr monitor for a really intelligent device.
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by hailthehamster View Post

Its cool stuff huh. The oxygen saturation technology was actually developed in the 1940's!! (Thanks Wikipedia) We use pulse oximeters in work on every patient every day, its fairly fool proof, the only problem will be in getting the monitor to apply to the skin effectively. It can be very temperamental.
Even if they do nail it, whats the point? Respiratory rate is the single best indicator of physiological stress. Your oxygen saturations are pretty irrelevant as your body's focus is to adequately perfuse your organs If your O2 sats drop during exercise you faint. Meh

Yes every ER room has an O2 sensor, and they work well but this is still potentially very helpful.

Consider someone on a cardiac reconditioning program after surgery or a heart attack. That person, and more importantly his Doctor or Physical Therapist might really really want good data about how the patient is performing.

So you might have an app the person can use while working out anywhere that then uploads detailed data that professionals can review. If patient did feint it would be nice to know why or better if the patient is falling behind in O2 then the device might signal a warning and take action.
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post

Space-Age? What is this, the 50s?

It's a bit dated, saying "space age"... how about the Internet Age?

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