According to SlashGear, there are rumors that Apple is considering health-centric upgrades for the AirPods, with heart rate measurement being the most important. However, Apple also seems to want AirPods to save users from accidents, especially in areas such as busy roads or construction sites where spatial awareness is critical. In a series of patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Apple talks about a system that would automatically make audio level adjustments to ensure users don’t miss critical audio cues from their surroundings, such as an emergency siren or a car honking around a corner.
Apple’s patent for its AirPods technology talks about using data, such as a person’s travel speed and total distance, combined with location data and sensor readings on other devices, to pause music playback or lower volume levels. This would come in handy, especially in situations where an emergency alert or other important warning message is being played nearby.
Based on GPS data collected by the paired phone or Apple Watch, the AirPods-based system will determine the direction the user is moving and adjust the volume of the left or right earbud accordingly, allowing ambient audio cues to enter. The system may also play a set of alerts that have been entered into the iPhone or Apple Watch software, initiating action when the AirPods and connected devices detect some sort of motion data.
The patent states that the audio output of the AirPods may be paused or reduced in response to “scenarios that require the user’s attention, such as hazardous locations, work sites, and educational facilities. In addition to sports activities (walking around the block or riding a bike), the system can also be activated in emergency situations, such as flood alerts, accidents and weather alerts, among others.
The patent also mentions a specialized sensor that will work in concert with data provided by other sensors installed within the iPhone or Apple Watch to monitor torso position and determine the correct course of action. As expected, the patent does not mention AirPods, but the term “wearable audio device” in Apple’s patent doesn’t leave much room for imagining other products. In addition to saving users from the dangers of proximity, the system could also have health benefits. For example, it could also announce details of body posture during exercise.
Another Apple patent suggests that the company is considering a body posture detection system for AirPods that would provide real-time feedback for conditions such as head tilt or torso extension, along with a rotary axis. But remember, these are patents after all, which means the idea may or may not make it to commercial devices in the near future, all depending on technical feasibility and cost allowances.