Apple Smart Earbuds Detect Head Gestures, Act as a Pedometer

Apparently, Apple wants to launch a new type of accessory for its mobile products: earbuds that track the number of steps you make and that can detect your head gestures.

At least that’s what one of the Apple’s patent applications suggests. Such an accessory would not only count the steps made while walking, but it would also collect biometric data that could be used for assessing someone’s physical performance and health status. The Cupertino tech company seems to take a lot of interest in health-related gadgets, as the latest rumors also suggest that the iWatch will have biometric sensors.

Christopher Prest and Quin Hoellwarth, the inventors of this concept, described these smart buds as pertaining “to a monitoring system that can be placed proximate to the head or ear of a user. According to one embodiment, the monitoring system can be used with a hearing device, headphones, earbuds or headsets. The monitoring system can, for example, be used to monitor user activity, such as during exercise or sporting activities. The positioning of the monitoring system can also facilitate sensing of other user characteristics (e.g., biometric data), such as temperature, perspiration and heart rate.”

The number of steps could be easily tracked instead using the iPhone or iPod Touch to which these smart earbuds will most probably be connected. However, it’s the biometric data that is collected that makes this concept shine. Speaking of compatible products, the smart earbuds would make an even better companion for iPod Shuffle, since on that one people can’t run any apps, so there wouldn’t be any redundancies.

According to Apple, there are two implementation methods for the biometric data collecting sensor. It could either be integrated in a par of earbuds, as the above design suggests, or it could be part of a device that attaches to an existing pair of earbuds. The sensors included in this concept, namely one or several accelerometers, pedometer, GPS and biometric sensors, are rather common in smartphones, but integrating them in a pair of earbuds would mean a step forward for wearable tech.

The most intriguing part about Apple’s newly published patent application is the ability of these smart earbuds to track head gestures. Of course, the sensor detecting these gestures would have to be very sensitive, or otherwise people using these on the street would look rather odd wobbling their heads again and again.

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