As the best wireless earbuds on the market right now, Apple AirPods Pro will need to deliver compelling new features if it plans to hold onto its title with a second-generation model. One of those AirPods Pro 2 features could be a catalog of awesome air and touch gestures.
In a patent (opens in new tab) (spotted by PatentlyApple (opens in new tab)) Apple lays out an AirPods Pro navigation system that builds on the existing force sensor controls. It explains how air gestures, as well as on-device capacitative sensors, could be used to enhance the experience of using the company's premium noise-cancelling headphones.
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The patent describes how both touch and air gestures could work together on a pair of earbuds. For example, a tap on a stem could prepare the AirPods Pro's sensors for an air gesture. These actions could be coupled together to trigger different actions, too.
"The earbud may be configured to detect gestures, physical manipulations, and so forth performed along or on the earbud," the patent reads. "In response to the detected inputs, the earbud may be configured to change various outputs, such as an audio output or a haptic output of the device."
Apple also makes a point of how it could implement this system in other devices. Similar capacitative sensors could exist in everything from the iPad and iMac to the Apple Watch and rumored Apple Glasses.
It's important to recognize that this is only a patent, and that many of Apple's protected ideas and designs never see the light of day. That said, with force sensor controls already in place, air gestures might be an inevitable evolution.
Whether they'll arrive for AirPods Pro 2 or Apple AirPods 3 is the elusive question here. While we know another pair of AirPods is in the pipeline thanks to reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who says AirPods 3 is coming in the first half of 2021.