Apple’s next AirPods may pack health sensors

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Apple AirPods
AirPods could soon do more than just play music
Photo: Apple Apple

Your next set of Apple earbuds might be about to get some serious health upgrades.

Tracking your heart rate while jogging soon may only require using earbuds, as a new patent filing show that Apple seems very serious about adding biometric sensing to its AirPods.


Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded patent US20180063621 to Apple. The filing is for “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 for making biometric measurements.”

Biometric AirPods
Apple received a patent for biometric AirPods

This isn’t the first patent this company has been awarded for biometric-enabled earbuds; it has received several in the last year or so. But this patent request was filed just four months ago, at the end of October 2017, which seems to indicate that the company is actively working on a product.

Taking measurements from the tragus

The Apple Watch can monitor its wearer’s heart rate and can even be used to spot health problems. AirPods might be able to do the same and more.

Biometric experts say the tragus in the ear gets strong circulation of blood, so it could potentially be used to measure respiratory rate and blood volume. Adding a pair of electrodes to measure galvanic skin response (GSR) could determine the user’s stress level.

Going beyond just getting a better workout, Apple is testing whether its watch can accurately detect heart attacks. Potentially, the same could be done with AirPods.

So far, there have been no leaks from Apple about when biometric-enabled earbuds will be released. The company launched the original AirPods in 2016, and hasn’t yet introduced any newer versions. Still, there are unconfirmed reports that a version with voice activation is coming this year, and a water-proof version will be out in 2019.