Latest Apple research reveals how AirPods can be used to monitor respiratory rate

A new Apple research published this week shows how researchers can estimate respiratory rate using breath audio gathered via wearable microphones like AirPods and AirPods Pro.

Respiratory rate is a clinical metric used to assess the overall health and physical fitness of a person. In the publication, researchers found that wearable headphones have the ability to pick up audible inhalations and exhalations during exertion using the device’s built-in microphones.

AirPods Pro

Apple research shows how AirPods can be used to monitor respiratory levels

First spotted by MyHealthyApple, the paper was published by Apple and Cornell University researchers this month. The remote estimation of respiratory rate offers a cost-effective method to track disease progression and cardio-respiratory fitness over time.

Breathlessness counts as quantified by the Borg Dyspnea Scale is used to assess the clinical severity of diseases such as peripheral artery disease, and other respiratory disorders are subjective patient-reported measures. Individuals with such cases are typically advised to visit a healthcare provider to properly recognize the symptoms and then treat them accordingly.

AirPods Pro

The data was collected from 21 individuals using microphone-enabled, near-field headphones before, during, and after strenuous exercise. A multi-level convolutional neural network was used to achieve signal clarity among other things and results showed that respiratory rate can be estimated with a concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) of 0.76, and a mean squared error (MSE) of 0.2, demonstrating that audio can be a viable signal for passively estimating respiratory rate.

The Cupertino tech giant is expected to include support for respiratory rate tracking via a user’s Apple Watch in iOS 15 this fall. As gathered from the code, the Health app will be able to display respiratory rate data after a workout or after waking up, along with blood glucose highlights and heart rate.

Next year, Apple is expected to update AirPods Pro by bringing new sensors to enable onboard fitness tracking. Rumors also indicate that the tech giant plans to add new health monitoring capabilities to AirPods Pro.

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About the Author

Usman has been playing games for as long as he can remember. He is an editor at iThinkDifferent and writes about games, Apple news, hardware, productivity guides, and more. When not writing for iTD, Usman loves to play competitive Team Fortress 2, spends time honing his football skills, and watches superhero movies.