Wild Rumor of Apple EarPods with Biometric Sensors Has Roots in Apple's Research

A seemingly wild rumor of Apple planning to launch new EarPods headphones with integrated heart rate and blood pressure sensors has been making the rounds today after the claim was posted on anonymous information sharing platform Secret (via Reddit).

Apple's new EarPods will have sensors in them, for heart rate & blood pressure. Also iBeacons so they don't get lost. They will require the lightning port, it's why the audio jack was moved to the bottom. [...]

It stores the data in a similar way to thumbprint point data, fully encrypted and nothing identifiable. But nice to send to your doctor to keep track of at which point your blood pressure started rising for example. [...]

Redesigned remote too. Extra mic for better noise canceling.

While a number of major tech stories have in fact broken on Secret, the anonymous nature of the platform makes it all but impossible to separate legitimate claims from fiction without corroborating information from other sources. As a result, it's easy to dismiss this EarPods rumor from someone claiming to have recently been let go from Apple.

But what makes the rumor a bit more interesting is that it has roots in Apple's research as documented in patent applications dating back years. Whether the Secret rumor is a fake inspired by those patent filings or if there actually is something to it is unknown, but it's worth taking another look at what Apple has proposed.

In one patent application filed in March 2007 and claiming a priority date of September 2006, Apple proposes using sensors integrated into various accessories or even devices themselves to collect physiological data.

The present invention can include systems and methods for integrating sensors for tracking a user's performance metrics into electronic devices and accessories therefor. In one embodiment of the present invention, the electronic devices can include portable media devices similar to iPods sold by Apple Inc. of Cupertino, Calif. or cellular telephones similar to iPhones designed by Apple Inc.

In one embodiment, the present invention can include headsets having one or more integrated physiological sensors. The headsets can be, for example, headphones for receiving audio signals from a media device or headsets for communication with cellular telephones. The sensor signals can be transmitted to a data repository through the same communication channel through which audio signals are transmitted to the headset (e.g., hard-wired or wireless).

apple_headphone_sensors

Apple's concepts for sensor clipped onto earlobe (left) to monitor pulse/oxygen levels or adhered to the skin (right)

Alternatively, Apple proposes using sensors embedded in an iPod or iPhone "sling" armband to monitor such data. Notably, two of the inventors listed on the patent filing are longtime accessories head Jesse Dorogusker, who moved to Square in 2012, and "father of the iPod" Tony Fadell, who left Apple in 2008 before starting Nest.

A second filing, which was granted as a patent this February, more directly addresses headphone-based physiological monitoring, although the application is also quite old, having been filed in August 2008 with an October 2007 priority date.

The invention pertains to a monitoring system that can be placed proximate to the head or ear of a user. According to one embodiment, the monitoring system can be used with a hearing device, headphones, earbuds or headsets. The monitoring system can, for example, be used to monitor user activity, such as during exercise or sporting activities. The positioning of the monitoring system can also facilitate sensing of other user characteristics (e.g., biometric data), such as temperature, perspiration and heart rate.

Advantageously, the invention can provide monitoring capabilities within a hearing device. Assuming the user is otherwise using the hearing device, such as to provide audio output by a portable media player, the user gains monitoring capabilities without requiring the user to wear or carry an additional article.

apple_headphone_sensors_2

Apple's concepts for sensors integrated directly into earpiece (left) or in a separate housing (right)

Biometrics have been rumored to be a significant part of iOS 8, with a new "Healthbook" app for tracking various types of health-related information being a key addition to Apple's mobile operating system. With Apple also rumored to be deploying biometric sensors in an upcoming iWatch, it's clear that the company has been looking at ways of collecting health-related data for many years and the effort may finally be coming together.

Tag: Patent

Top Rated Comments

_Refurbished_ Avatar
105 months ago
Headphones that tell you you're fat.

Revolutionary. Magically Delicious.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mac Fly (film) Avatar
105 months ago
Nobody with any common sense uses Apple's headphones now.

Not being fooled into spending $399 for a pair of in ear headphones and instead using the pair that came free with your iPhone sounds like common sense to me.

And they aren't actually THAT bad. I find them comfortable and think they sound reasonable.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
webbuzz Avatar
105 months ago
If true, those headphones better be comfortable.

Something the current EarPods are not.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
spyguy10709 Avatar
105 months ago
Now THAT'S a workout accessory!!
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tevion5 Avatar
105 months ago
Nobody with any common sense uses Apple's headphones now, so Apple will either have to make this an open implementation standard (ha!), or this data isn't worth having to put up with crappy sound.

The worst case scenario would be another ****** "made for iPhone" licensing debacle driving up prices and down quality like the controller or charging cable situations.

I'm a producer and I take sound quality pretty seriously. The EarPods are pretty good for daily commute use. The bass reflex is fairly strong. And the mids are about as good as earpieces get. Nowhere near a good set of speakers, but great daily use phones.

Now the older ones from 2001-2012. They sucked big time. I couldn't listen to memos on those bits of rubbish.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
moeafg Avatar
105 months ago
"Yes. No one charges their phone when doing any sort of fitness anyways so it won't make a difference for most."

But many people listen to their music whilst charging their device e.g. when studying in the library - I have done this countless amount of times. If such a thing happens, it'd be a stupid move by Apple. However Apple would not make such a move as they may just be able to do this through the headphone jack by embedding such technologies into the port.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

apple ar headset concept 1

Apple's Headset Said to Feature 14 Cameras Enabling Lifelike Avatars, Jony Ive Has Remained Involved With Design

Friday May 20, 2022 6:50 am PDT by
Earlier this week, The Information's Wayne Ma outlined struggles that Apple has faced during the development of its long-rumored AR/VR headset. Now, in a follow-up report, he has shared several additional details about the wearable device. Apple headset render created by Ian Zelbo based on The Information reporting For starters, one of the headset's marquee features is said to be lifelike...
anker 563 dock ports

Anker's Latest USB-C Docking Station Brings Triple-Display Support to M1 Macs

Wednesday May 18, 2022 7:06 am PDT by
While Apple's early M1-based Macs can only officially support a single external display, there are ways around the limitation. Anker is launching a new 10-in-1 USB-C docking station today which delivers just that. The Anker 563 USB-C dock includes two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort port, and it leverages DisplayLink to carry multiple video signals over a single connection. Given that this hub...
apple data auction iphone privacy ad

Apple Highlights iPhone's Latest Privacy Features in New 'Data Auction' Ad

Wednesday May 18, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
Apple today shared a new ad highlighting iPhone privacy features like App Tracking Transparency and Mail Privacy Protection that are designed to give users more transparency and control when it comes to their personal data being collected. The ad revolves around a young woman named Ellie who discovers that her personal data is being sold at an auction house, with bids being placed on her...
Prosser Series 8 3

Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature New Design With Flat Display

Wednesday May 18, 2022 6:21 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 could feature an all-new design with a flat display, according to the leaker known as "ShrimpApplePro." In his latest video on the YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Jon Prosser highlighted information from ShrimpApplePro that suggests the Apple Watch Series 8 could feature a flat display in what seems to be a design originally rumored for the Apple Watch Series 7. ...
sony headphones 1

Sony's New WH-1000XM5 Headphones vs. Apple's AirPods Max

Friday May 20, 2022 12:18 pm PDT by
Sony this week came out with an updated version of its popular over-ear noise canceling headphones, so we picked up a pair to compare them to the AirPods Max to see which headphones are better and whether it's worth buying the $400 WH-1000XM5 from Sony over Apple's $549 AirPods Max. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. First of all, the AirPods Max win out when it comes ...
iPhone 14 Purple Lineup Feature

Will the iPhone 14 Be a Disappointment?

Saturday May 21, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
With around four months to go before Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 14 lineup, the overwhelming majority of rumors related to the new devices so far have focused on the iPhone 14 Pro, rather than the standard iPhone 14 – leading to questions about how different the iPhone 14 will actually be from its predecessor, the iPhone 13. The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are expected...
apple ar headset concept 2

Apple's AR/VR Headset Nearing Completion as Board Gets Demo

Thursday May 19, 2022 9:52 am PDT by
Apple last week demonstrated its upcoming AR/VR headset to Apple board members, indicating that the device is in an advanced stage of development and could see a debut in the not too distant future, reports Bloomberg. Apple has also ramped up development of the software that runs on the headset, with that software expected to be called "RealityOS," or rOS for short. Render via designer Ian ...