AirPods in the future may get a ‘pose detection’ functionality to work alongside the Apple Fitness+ service and help assist users in their fitness journey, a patent application filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has indicated. The Cupertino company already has the Apple Watch to enable fitness tracking while on-the-go. However, the iPhone maker seems to go beyond the Apple Watch and eventually use AirPods to bolster Fitness+ and make it more viable for fitness enthusiasts.

As spotted by Apple Insider, the patent application suggests that Apple is preparing its new AirPods with the built-in technology to track user movements.

“Ear buds may have sensors to gather orientation information such as accelerometer measurements during user movements,” reads the abstract of the application. “A host electronic device may communicate wirelessly with the ear buds and may form part of an ear bud system that supplies the user with coaching and feedback while evaluating user performance of a head movement routine or other exercise routine.”

The AirPods need to record precise measurements to understand movements when a virtual trainer is guiding users in the process. For this, the patent shows that the earbuds “may gather accelerometer data in a first reference frame” and “may use a rotation matrix to rotate the data in the first reference frame into a second reference frame such as a neutral reference with a fixed orientation to the earth”.

“The data in the neutral reference frame may be analysed using a user head pose look-up table to categorise measured user head positions as corresponding to respective user head poses,” the patent application notes.

Once the data is collected and processed, users will be given audio feedback on the earbuds to help them improve their movements and positions while exercising.

Apple filed the latest patent application with the USPTO on October 29, 2021, and it was published by the trademark office on February 17, 2022. There were also some other applications in relation with the ongoing development that were from as early as March 2017.

Rumours suggesting the presence of fitness tracking on the AirPods initially emerged back in 2014. A report by The Wall Street Journal last year indicated that the health-focussed features, which could include posture monitoring as well as body temperature measurement and hearing improvements, are not expected by this year.

Nevertheless, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman in May suggested that the AirPods Pro 2 may debut with fitness tracking through updated motion sensors sometime in 2022 itself.

Apple introduced Fitness+ as its subscription-based offering for virtually accessing fitness activities last year. The initial experience is limited to the Apple Watch, though AirPods could potentially be the next hardware segment to uplift revenues from the service.

Exact details on whether Apple will consider bringing a commercial version of its fitness-focussed AirPods are yet to be confirmed.




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