Future AirPods could get posture monitoring & body temperature sensing

Posted:
in General Discussion
After more than seven years of already-published research saying the same, a new report is now claiming that Apple has started working on expanding Apple Watch-like health monitoring to its AirPods lineup.




Apple's ambitions for AirPods and in-ear sensors have been clear for years. The company has a large number of patents on using earbuds as health monitors dating back more than seven years, interviews with executives suggesting that the feature was coming to devices other than the Apple Watch, all coupled with rumors swirling for years about sensors and other health monitoring coming to AirPods soon.

Further emphasizing that angle, Apple itself already has Live Listen, the newly-launched Conversation Boost, and other technologies allowing AirPods to operate as ersatz hearing aids for wearers -- even if Apple can't market them as such.

The new report, published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday cites "documents" and "people familiar with the plans" to attempt to narrowly define what Apple is doing. Specifically, the report addresses further amplification of using AirPods as a hearing aid, and says that prototypes for AirPods as core body temperature monitors exist.

Additionally, the report also says that future AirPods will use motion sensors in the earbuds to monitor a user's posture. Alerts would be delivered if the user is found to be slouching in the chair, and other similar relative movements.

Apple's long-time research for AirPods and health monitoring

AirPods were announced in September 2016 and just barely made it to online orders by the end of that year. However, as early as 2014, Apple had applied for three patents to do with Earbuds with Biometric Sensing.

According to the 2014 patent, a fitness monitoring system as defined was ensconced in a set of headset or earbuds, By positioning the audio devices in or near the ear, the embedded activity sensor can pick up temperature, perspiration and heart rate data, among other metrics.

The integration of potential health features on AirPods have long been rumored. Back in 2018, well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that AirPods could integrate with an Apple Watch and other devices for better health management. The same year, Bluetooth specifications also hinted at further health and wellness features.

Apple also has filed a number of patent applications related to the introduction of health features on a pair of AirPods. Those include various sensors to track heart rate, movement, or other health metrics.

Apple Vice President Kevin Lynch spoke earlier in 2021 about integrating AirPods into Health, and a "sensor fusion" concept. Lynch hinted that Apple could include other types of device-borne sensors in its Health ecosystem, including those in AirPods. The Apple Health system already uses "sensor fusion" to pull useful data from different devices, like an iPhone or Apple Watch.

"We already do sensor fusion across some devices today, and I think there's all kinds of potential here," Lynch said.

It's not clear how the Wall Street Journal's report on Wednesday differs from the large body of published work about the concept. It also does not elaborate on a timetable.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 6
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 927member
    Body temperature monitoring is #1 on my wish list of AirPods upgrades. The big question is whether it will be offered on both models, or only the Pros. Probably the latter. 
  • Reply 2 of 6
    To be effective (for me) at any kind of monitoring, they'd actually have to stay in my ears.  Original AirPods won't stay in my ears more than about 15 minutes, even sitting on the couch, before falling out.  AirPods Pro are somewhat better; I can go for about an hour and a half before they slip out, no matter which tips I use.  But even before that, they loosen up to the point I can tell from the sound.  If I get up and walk around, it reduces the time even more.  If I eat, the chewing action drives them out of my ears in just a few minutes.

    I realize many people wear them for hours, but for me, if Apple were to include a mechanism to actually keep them in my ears for long periods, one which doesn't require disassembling them to charge, I'd get them in an instant.  I absolutely love the sound on them.
    Ofer
  • Reply 3 of 6
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 927member
    To be effective (for me) at any kind of monitoring, they'd actually have to stay in my ears.  Original AirPods won't stay in my ears more than about 15 minutes, even sitting on the couch, before falling out.  AirPods Pro are somewhat better; I can go for about an hour and a half before they slip out, no matter which tips I use.  But even before that, they loosen up to the point I can tell from the sound.  If I get up and walk around, it reduces the time even more.  If I eat, the chewing action drives them out of my ears in just a few minutes.

    I realize many people wear them for hours, but for me, if Apple were to include a mechanism to actually keep them in my ears for long periods, one which doesn't require disassembling them to charge, I'd get them in an instant.  I absolutely love the sound on them.
    I hear you (lol), and while my own experience hasn’t been quite so extreme, I would definitely be happier with a bit more of a snug fit. Hopefully the rumors of the next Pro coming in 2 different sizes are true, and that the second size is a large. 
    beowulfschmidtOfer
  • Reply 4 of 6
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,490member
    For competitive endurance athletes both temperature and fluid analysis could be helpful for both performance as well as preserving their lives

    Temperature:  While working on the medical team of the Pittsburgh marathon we hospitalized a dozen runners with internal temperatures over 110 degrees.  The prompt & capable care saved their lives.   But Airpods could have warned them that their bodies were entering risky territory.

    Fluid monitoring could detect and warn against both dehydration and low glucose levels.  Both can impact performance and both, particularly hypoglycemia can be life threatening (and those taking diabetic medications are particularly vulnerable to that).

    These would be major advances for serious, competitive athletes.
    Ofer
  • Reply 5 of 6
    For competitive endurance athletes both temperature and fluid analysis could be helpful for both performance as well as preserving their lives

    Temperature:  While working on the medical team of the Pittsburgh marathon we hospitalized a dozen runners with internal temperatures over 110 degrees.  The prompt & capable care saved their lives.   But Airpods could have warned them that their bodies were entering risky territory.

    Fluid monitoring could detect and warn against both dehydration and low glucose levels.  Both can impact performance and both, particularly hypoglycemia can be life threatening (and those taking diabetic medications are particularly vulnerable to that).

    These would be major advances for serious, competitive athletes.
    For a lot of athletes (especially professionals), such warnings would be ignored. There's already a technique for stimulating an area of the brain that is responsible for managing signals relating to exhaustion and damage limitation; after overwhelming that part of the brain for a while performance in high-energy/endurance tasks is increased - not by much, but in a hyper-competitive field small marginal gains will add up to victory and a lot of athletes will take the risk.

    Anyone who is able to push their core temp that high is already ignoring a whole bunch of internal warning signals (and probably suffering from reduced cognitive ability); I'm not sure a warning from an electronic device would make a significant difference.
  • Reply 6 of 6
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,490member
    For competitive endurance athletes both temperature and fluid analysis could be helpful for both performance as well as preserving their lives

    Temperature:  While working on the medical team of the Pittsburgh marathon we hospitalized a dozen runners with internal temperatures over 110 degrees.  The prompt & capable care saved their lives.   But Airpods could have warned them that their bodies were entering risky territory.

    Fluid monitoring could detect and warn against both dehydration and low glucose levels.  Both can impact performance and both, particularly hypoglycemia can be life threatening (and those taking diabetic medications are particularly vulnerable to that).

    These would be major advances for serious, competitive athletes.
    For a lot of athletes (especially professionals), such warnings would be ignored. There's already a technique for stimulating an area of the brain that is responsible for managing signals relating to exhaustion and damage limitation; after overwhelming that part of the brain for a while performance in high-energy/endurance tasks is increased - not by much, but in a hyper-competitive field small marginal gains will add up to victory and a lot of athletes will take the risk.

    Anyone who is able to push their core temp that high is already ignoring a whole bunch of internal warning signals (and probably suffering from reduced cognitive ability); I'm not sure a warning from an electronic device would make a significant difference.
    It's not black and white -- either keep going or stop.
    Competitive endurance athletes are juggling multiple factors all through any race and adjusting their pace, hydration and glucose as they go.  This would give them a better tool for doing that.

    An example from myself (although I am far from competitive):  I trained hard for a 10K race on groomed trails which closely duplicated race conditions and found that I could safely run the entire race without slowing or stopping for hydration.   But, 7-8K into the actual race I realized I was dehydrated (and it was too late to recover) and, at the end of the race I realized I had also overheated as a result.   My performance was far below my training performance. The difference was:  I had trained in higher temps but under shady conditions.   The race was in open sun.

    Had I been able to monitor my core temp and hydration I would have taken corrective action sooner and ended up with a better performance.   And, in longer races, glucose management comes into play as well.  But, right now, all athletes have to go on is an intangible feel of how and when to manage those things.  Objective, real time, measurements could make a real difference in both safety and performance.



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