Earphones have been getting better with time. They have become more than just an accessory that will let you hear your favorite tunes. Instead, they have evolved to give us better audio quality during calls and conferences, noise cancelation, heart rate sensors, and more. Now, Apple’s researchers suggest that earphones can also be used to measure a user’s respiratory rate, meaning that Apple may want to include this feature in future AirPods.
It seems that we may get a new feature in future AirPods that could be used to estimate Respiratory Rate, which is a clinical metric used to assess physical fitness and health. Now, this information was spotted by MyHealthyApple on the Apple Machine Learning Research website. The AirPods, or the microphones, are apparently able to pick up the sound produced when a user inhales and exhales with the device’s microphones, which opens a potential use for biometric health sensors.
“Data was collected from 21 individuals using microphone-enabled, near-field headphones before, during, and after strenuous exercise. RR was manually annotated by counting audibly perceived inhalations and exhalations.”
“A multi-level convolutional neural network was used to achieve signal clarity among other things, and the results observed show that RR can be estimated with a concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) of 0.76 and a mean squared error (MSE) of 0.2, demonstrating that audio can be a viable signal for passively estimating RR.”
“Results presented validate that RR can be estimated from audio captured using wearable microphones, enabling the detection of heavy breathing conditions and the monitoring of RR changes, a measure of cardio-respiratory fitness, over time. The findings show promise for further development of a respiratory health tool with a larger study cohort.”
The publication doesn’t mention AirPods, but we can guess that wearable microphones are found in these devices, meaning that this could easily become a future AirPods feature. Remember that Cupertino is one of the best in giving its users health monitoring-oriented features.
Apple has been working on patenting several inventions, such as the “Fine-tuning structure for headphones and headphone,” which integrates advanced biometric sensors that could detect physiological metrics including temperature, heart rate, perspiration levels, and more through built-in sensors and skin contact.
Rumors also suggest that Apple may be planning on giving its users RR tracking via Apple Watch with iOS 15 and the Health app that is expected to display this ingo after a workout or after waking up. But we will have to wait if these features do arrive, as some patents and ideas never get to see the light. Whatever the case, it would be a cool new feature to get in future AirPods. Again, we will only have to wait and see.