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Apple Patents Smart Earbuds to Track Steps and Detect Head Gestures

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 16 comments

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. 

MORE: Best Smartphones on the Market Now

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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  • 4 Hide
    InvalidError , February 18, 2014 7:08 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    kentlowt , February 18, 2014 7:36 AM
    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
  • 0 Hide
    heero yuy , February 18, 2014 7:38 AM
    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...
  • 0 Hide
    daltwisney , February 18, 2014 8:19 AM
    The price of Apple earbuds is already high. Might need earbud insurance!
  • 6 Hide
    fyend , February 18, 2014 8:27 AM
    Patenting things they neither came up with nor have made a prototype for. Yeah the patent system isn't broken...
  • 0 Hide
    kentlowt , February 18, 2014 9:50 AM
    Quote:
    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...
    I don't think so Valencell already holds the patents (11 of them with some more pending) so it will have to work differently or they will be forced to license or buy the company.
  • 1 Hide
    lp231 , February 18, 2014 11:33 AM
    Imagine going to the Apple store and you see everyone doing crazy head gestures.
  • 1 Hide
    zblade , February 18, 2014 3:33 PM
    Looks like they have taken a thing or two from The Dash earphones. Which I am backing up and getting a pair. :) https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hellobragi/the-dash-wireless-smart-in-ear-headphones
  • -1 Hide
    zblade , February 18, 2014 4:39 PM
    Looks like they have taken a thing or two from The Dash earphones. Which I am backing up and getting a pair. :) https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hellobragi/the-dash-wireless-smart-in-ear-headphones
  • 0 Hide
    okibrian , February 18, 2014 5:44 PM
    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
    Valencell's product measures heart rateApple's product measures heart rate, how many steps you've taken, your perspiration and other types of physical data.
  • 0 Hide
    davewolfgang , February 21, 2014 5:59 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    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...
    I don't think so Valencell already holds the patents (11 of them with some more pending) so it will have to work differently or they will be forced to license or buy the company.
    It doesn't matter if anyone else holds ANY Patents on it - if it EXISTED before - iCrapple (nor anyone but the ORIGINAL creator) should be able to patent it. If the original creator didn't patent it, then anyone can use it.
  • 1 Hide
    davewolfgang , February 21, 2014 6:01 AM
    Sigh.....**shouldn't be able to patent it.
  • 1 Hide
    therealduckofdeath , February 21, 2014 7:24 AM
    Quote:
    Patenting things they neither came up with nor have made a prototype for. Yeah the patent system isn't broken...
    Well, that's USA for you. It's the richest who "invents" everything, not the smartest.
  • 0 Hide
    Patent_guy , February 21, 2014 11:26 AM
    Guys.... It is irrelevant what this article says... the actual monopoly is set forth in the claims of the granted patent, which in this case is "for controlling a portable electronic device through one or more head gestures". So it is not about measuring heart beat or what not, but about controlling the Iphone through head gestures. The patent is already granted, with a priority date of 2007. If you have any relevant prior art, you should speak up, if not... well...
  • 0 Hide
    kentlowt , February 21, 2014 3:24 PM
    Quote:
    Guys.... It is irrelevant what this article says... the actual monopoly is set forth in the claims of the granted patent, which in this case is "for controlling a portable electronic device through one or more head gestures". So it is not about measuring heart beat or what not, but about controlling the Iphone through head gestures. The patent is already granted, with a priority date of 2007. If you have any relevant prior art, you should speak up, if not... well...
    Well then the article needs to be rewritten because it say measuring heartbeat...Someones gotta be wrong somewhere here...
  • 0 Hide
    g-unit1111 , February 21, 2014 10:05 PM
    Sigh, more "smart" crap. They might as well just wire these apps into our brains. :ange: 
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