Apple AirPods 3 could save your life — here’s how

AirPods 3
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The Apple AirPods 3 could come with the ability to lower or cut audio volume when a hazard is detected nearby, allowing the wearer to hear danger without removing their earbuds. 

That's according to a new patent granted to Apple that describes a feature for modifying the headphones’ audio output depending on where the user is and what they are doing. The idea is that by intelligently reducing audio levels, the AirPods 3 or future Apple headphones will be able to keep wearers safe when they are near busy roads or other hazards. 

By using a mix of positional data gathered by the earbuds and GPS information taken from a connected iPhone or Apple Watch, future AirPods could be set up to provide “feedback, directions, encouragement, advice, safety information, instructions, and the like.” 

Dubbed a “Contextual audio system,” the patent also describes how such an automatic audio adjusting feature would work for cyclists, tracking how fast they are going and adjusting the audio output accordingly. If they reach a certain speed where situational awareness is key, the earbuds could pause whatever audio is playing automatically.  

AirPods safety patent

(Image credit: USPTO)

While safety advice appears to be the crux of this patent, it could also bring coaching and feedback to wearables by using sensor information to track how a user is doing while exercising; for example, how well they are holding a yoga pose or how fast they are running. A running coach feature can be found in the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Apple take that idea and run with it in its contextual audio system. 

There have been plenty of patents from Apple that tease potential features for the AirPods 3, which we’re expecting to see later this year or in 2021. But a lot of the tech teased in patents never make it over to the real-world. Apple's next hardware event will likely take place in September with a focus on the iPhone 12, so we could see the company's new earbuds surface sooner than later.

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.