Like the Apple Watch, it appears that the Cupertino tech giant wants to transition AirPods into a health monitoring device as well.
The latest patent granted to Apple by the US Patent & Trademark Office reveals that the next-generation AirPods would feature a new sensor system to measure biosignals and electric activity of the brain like electrooculography (EOG) electroencephalography (EEG), and electromyography (EMG), and more.
Next-generation AirPods might be personalized to accurately measure users’ brain activity
Spotted by Patently Apple, the published patent application explains that several active and reference electrodes would be positioned within and on the tips of the earpods to measure the biosignals and brain activity because electrodes can monitor brain activity when attached to a user’s scalp.
The electrodes may in some cases be placed inside or around the outer ear of the user. Measuring of the brain activity using electrodes placed in or around the outer ear may be preferred due to benefits such as reduced device mobility and decreased visibility of the electrodes when compared to other devices that require electrodes to be placed on visible areas around the scalp of the user.
Having said that, the future AirPods might be personalized to accurately measure ear-EEG because ear size and shape vary from person to person. Even then, it is likely that a customized device might fail because users’ ear canals may change over time.
Therefore, the company proposes “different subsets of the electrodes for measuring the biosignals for different users or at different times”.
- The wearable electronic device may include a set of electrodes including electrodes positioned at different locations on the nonplanar surface, a sensor circuit, and a switching circuit. The switching circuit is operable to electrically connect a number of different subsets of one or more electrodes in the set of electrodes to the sensor circuit.
- The wearable electronic device includes a switching circuit configured to form one or more subsets of active electrodes each including at least one active electrode of the set of active electrodes, and one or more subsets of reference electrodes each including at least one reference electrode of the set of reference electrodes.
- The apparatus may include a first component configured to be worn on or in a first ear, and a second component configured to be worn on or in a second ear. The first component may include a set of active electrodes disposed in different regions of a housing of the first component, and the second component may include a set of reference electrodes disposed in different regions of a housing of the second component.
Although all of the technologies described in patent filings never materialize, there is a lot of speculation on Apple’s plan to integrate health monitoring capabilities in AirPods.
Recently, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Apple was working on adding the ability to measure body temperature through the ear canal in the wireless headphones and it was also developing a new hearing test feature for AirPods to play various tones in the user’s ear and gauge the user’s hearing abilities, and potentially screen for any hearing issues.