Apple Patents Smart Earbuds to Track Steps and Detect Head Gestures

Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly expressed his interest in Nike's Fuelband fitness tracker, but the Cupertino, Calif.-based company could be experimenting with a different approach for its own health-focused device. A newly published Apple patent application describes a set of earbuds that can measure your heart rate, how many steps you've taken, your perspiration and other types of physical data.

Apple describes a few different ways in which this technology could be implemented. In one instance sensors are packed into a pair of earbuds, while another method entails an external component that could attach to a set of earbuds to headphones you already own. As is the case with most existing fitness trackers, Apple's solution would pair with your smartphone. This type of device, Apple says, will eliminate the need to bring an extra item such a wristband when working out. 

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What makes Apple's health-oriented earbuds particularly intriguing is the potential use of head gestures.  As the patent notes, wearers could set a predetermined task to a specific head movement. We imagine this could entail tilting your head to the right to skip to the next song in your playlist, but Apple's application doesn't cite specific use cases.

The patent mentions a variety of sensors common in most fitness trackers and smartphones, including an accelerometer or multiple accelerometers, a pedometer, a GPS tracker and a biometric detector.

Fitness tracker headphones are a budding area of interest for those jumping on the wearable tech bandwagon. At this year's CES, Intel showcased its smart earbud prototype capable of tracking your workout and adjusting music based on your pace. LG also unveiled a pair of fitness-focused in-ear headphones alongside its Lifeband Touch tracker last month.

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  • InvalidError
    In other words, Apple is attempting to patent sensor packages integrated in a separate package from the phone or tablet.There already is prior art for that with health researchers integrating sensor packages in mouth guards, helmets and other sports gear to help coaches keep track of potential injuries. The first time I remember hearing about this was around five years ago but I bet there is prior art even older than that.
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  • kentlowt
    There is also another product exactly like this. They will end up needing to license from them unless their methods of extracting and using this data are very different from the other. Here is a link to an existing product http://www.valencell.com/products
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  • heero yuy
    Quote:
    There is also another product exactly like this. They will end up needing to license from them unless their methods of extracting and using this data are very different from the other. Here is a link to an existing product http://www.valencell.com/products
    no it would be valencell that would have to pay apple moneyits how it usually ends up going...
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