Apple’s next-gen AirPods to feature infrared camera for enhanced spatial audio

TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has revealed that Apple is gearing up to start mass production of new AirPods equipped with infrared (IR) camera modules by 2026. This innovation is set to revolutionize the way users interact with their devices, particularly in conjunction with the Apple Vision Pro and future Apple Vision headsets.

AirPods Pro

According to Kuo’s latest blog post, these new AirPods will feature an infrared camera akin to the Face ID module found in iPhones and iPads. The primary goal is to enhance the user experience of spatial audio and fortify Appleā€™s spatial computing ecosystem. When paired with Vision Pro, the IR camera will detect head movements, allowing the sound source in the direction the user is looking to be emphasized, creating a more immersive audio experience.

This integration signifies a significant leap forward in spatial computing, making the combination of Vision Pro and the new AirPods a powerful tool for augmented reality (AR) applications. As users watch videos or engage in AR experiences, the IR camera’s ability to adjust audio dynamically based on head position will provide an unprecedented level of immersion.

One of the standout features of the new AirPods is their potential for in-air gesture control. The IR camera can detect environmental changes, enabling users to interact with their devices through gestures. This capability opens up new possibilities for seamless, hands-free control, enhancing the overall user experience.

AirPods Pro 2 - Conversation Awareness

In addition to this, the camera modules are not standard infrared night vision cameras but are designed to provide environmental depth information. This technology will improve spatial audio by detecting changes in the user’s surroundings and adjusting audio output accordingly.

Foxconn has been named the new product introduction (NPI) supplier for these IR camera-equipped AirPods. With an annual production capacity plan of 18-20 million units, or about 10 million pairs of AirPods, Foxconn is set to meet the expected high demand. While actual orders will depend on market reception, the planned production volume reflects Apple’s confidence in this groundbreaking product.

In addition to the new AirPods, Apple is also exploring other wearable form factors, such as smart glasses and smart rings, as well as future iterations of the Apple Watch.

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About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.