AirPods in the future could get ‘pose detection’ functionality to work together with the Apple Fitness+ service and help users on their fitness journey, indicated a patent application filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The Cupertino company already has the Apple Watch to enable fitness tracking on the go. However, the iPhone maker seems to go beyond the Apple Watch and eventually use AirPods to beef up Fitness+ and make it more viable for fitness enthusiasts.
How identified by Apple Insider, the patent application suggests that Apple is preparing its new AirPods with the technology built in to track the user’s movements.
“Headphones may have sensors to collect orientation information, such as accelerometer measurements during user movements,” reads the app summary. “A host electronic device can communicate wirelessly with the headphones and can be part of a headphone system that provides the user with training and feedback while evaluating the user’s performance of a head movement routine or other Exercises.”
AirPods need to record accurate measurements to understand movements when a virtual trainer is guiding users through the process. To this end, the patent shows that the headphones “can gather accelerometer data in a first frame of reference” and “can use a rotation matrix to rotate the data in the first frame of reference into a second frame of reference, as a neutral reference with fixed orientation to the earth”.
“Data in the neutral frame of reference can be analyzed using a user’s head pose lookup table to categorize the user’s measured head positions as corresponding to the user’s respective head poses,” the patent application notes.
Once the data is collected and processed, users will receive audio feedback on the headphones to help them improve their movements and positions during exercise.
Apple filed the last patent application with the USPTO on October 29, 2021 and it was published by the trademark office on February 17, 2022. There have also been a few other applications regarding development in progress since March 2017.
Rumors suggesting the presence of fitness tracking on AirPods initially surfaced in 2014. A report by The Wall Street Journal last year indicated that health-focused features, which may include posture monitoring, body temperature measurement and hearing improvements, are not expected for this year.
However, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman in May suggested that the AirPods Pro 2 may debut with fitness tracking via updated motion sensors sometime in 2022.
Apple introduced Fitness+ as its subscription-based offering to virtually access fitness activities last year. The initial experience is limited to the Apple Watch, though AirPods could be the next hardware segment to increase revenue from the service.
Exact details on whether Apple will consider bringing a commercial version of its fitness-focused AirPods have yet to be confirmed.