It seems like most people who own AirPods (myself included) are overwhelmingly happy with them. The sound quality might be subpar but all of the innovative convenience features make up for it and justify the price.
However, Apple has today been granted three patents from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that could take AirPods on to the next level.
As first spotted by PatentlyApple, Apple has a new set of patents called “Earbuds with Biometric Sensing.” The patent shows how a photoplethysmogram, or PPG, sensor could be added to an earbud so that it sits in the tragus part of the ear. This would allow for the PPG sensor to monitor the biometric data. The same technology is currently being used on the Apple Watch.
The issue with AirPods, or any other sort of earbud is that the exterior surface of the bud doesn’t usually make enough contact with the ear to provide biometric data. Apple’s latest patents, however, suggests it has found a way around this…
One possibility would be to place the PPG sensor around the speaker opening. This would allow the sensor to make contact with the tragus, which is located in the front of the ear canal. To ensure both sensors stay in place, Apple suggests placing a retaining wall on the opposite end of the PPG sensor to allow contact with the concha of the ear.
In terms of what measurements Apple plans on doing for earbuds, the patent lists sensors such as heart rate, VO2, galvanic skin, EKG, impedance cardiography, and temperature.
Apple’s patent also details how using three microphones in a triangular configuration could help improve noise cancellation.
As usual, you should take Apple’s patent with a grain of salt because the company is notoriously known for patenting more than they release.