The AirPods Pro 2 have long been rumored to have fitness-tracking capabilities, and we now know have a better idea about how the new feature could work.
That's thanks to a new patent application (opens in new tab) by Apple, which details how a potential AirPods model could track its user's physical activities. Titled "Wireless Ear Bud System With Pose Detection," the 14-page-long patent application explains that the earbuds could, in theory, feature sensors that would "gather orientation information such as accelerometer measurements during user movements."
The document, which Apple filed back in October but which was only published last week, explains that the process would involve "a host electronic device" that could wirelessly communicate with the AirPods, forming "part of an ear bud system." This could in turn provide the user with relevant feedback and audible coaching instructions, as well as evaluating their overall performance.
In non-patent terms, then, the sensors on the AirPods could detect your physical movements and transfer the data onto either your Apple Watch or an iPhone in order to give you feedback.
The patent application doesn't include information on whether there's a limit to the kind of physical activity that the earbuds could track, though one of the examples explores head movements. So in theory, the AirPods could register and examine accelerometer data that analyzes how a user tilts their head into pre-determined poses (forward, back, as well as to the left and right).
According to the application, there's also scope for other useful fitness-related features, such as performance reports and alerts.
This isn't the first we've heard about AirPods with activity-tracking capabilities. Last year, Apple's vice president of technology Kevin Lynch said there was "potential" for the AirPods to explore sensor fusion: the process of combining sensor data from multiple devices, like the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch, to provide more accurate fitness tracking and health data. Coincidentally, this corresponds to the way the patent described the fitness-tracking AirPods.
Add to that the fact that a Bloomberg report last year also claimed that the AirPods Pro 2 would come with exercise-tracking features and there's reason to think that this patent application could actually become reality at some stage.
It's important to note that patent applications aren’t always acted upon or indeed approved; at this stage, it's just an idea and even if granted Apple might decide to focus its efforts elsewhere.
However, if it does come to fruition then this could be a revolutionary upgrade, especially seeing as such tracking features aren't yet featured in other Apple devices. Right now, the ability to track movements on an Apple Watch is fairly limited, as the smartwatch can only detect the type of your routine minutes after you start. But the above patent application could provide the user with real-time feedback and actually track your performance.
While it's by no means guaranteed to appear in the AirPods Pro 2, we can at least cross our fingers that it's included when the new earbuds make their expected debut later this year.