Apple considers future AirPods that monitor temperature, posture and hearing

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In the future, your AirPods might take your temperature, check your posture and help with hearing.
In the future, your AirPods might take your temperature, check your posture and help with hearing.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel

Apple appears to be looking into new ways to expand its health-related features. This time it focuses on its popular AirPods, according to a new report. In the future, in addition to filling your head with tunes and podcasts, the earbuds may take your temperature, monitor your posture and help improve your hearing.

The news comes on the verge of a possible new AirPods 3 release, expected as part of Apple’s “Unleashed” event set for October 18. But the new health elements mentioned in the report are far from being in production. They won’t be a feature of Apple earbuds anytime soon.

And the new report, in The Wall Street Journal, indicated uncertainty over whether the hearing-improvement function differs from AirPods’ current “Conversation Boost” feature. The function amplifies the voice of a person speaking to the AirPods wearer.

Future AirPods with health features: timeline unknown

The health functions “aren’t expected by next year and might never be rolled out to consumers or the timing could change,” the WSJ said.

That could mean Apple’s exploratory effort is just that — not a feature set planned for production within a year or two.

If and when AirPods acquire health-monitoring functionality, it goes right along with Apple’s continuing efforts to develop health and fitness applications.

Most of the development has focused on Apple Watch, which currently can measure blood oxygen, sleep data and physical activity levels. The wearable may add blood pressure, temperature and blood sugar monitoring, as well as deeper sleep analysis, according to reports.

Few details known

The WSJ report lacks much detail about the new health functions and how they’ll be implemented.

Products already exist for reading temperature from the ear and using digital sensors to monitor posture. No great leap should be necessary to add the functions to AirPods. And Apple has already shown interest in having AirPods help the hearing-impaired. But the devices lack FDA approval for that purpose (so far).

And the prognosis for health-feature development is usually uncertain because medical regulatory standards are hard to meet. As a result, companies like Apple run into delays in rolling out health-related functions in products.

This came up with the Apple Watch 7’s ability to read a user’s temperature. Apparently in the works, as The Verge reported, but it did not appear in the Apple Watch 7 specs when Apple announced the new wearable in September.