With this year's first expected release, Apple's second generation AirPods are likely to be released early next year. However, a recent patent application from Apple discloses a pair of future earphones that are exciting in many ways. The patent was filed in 2017 but was awarded to Apple this week. It describes a pair of interchangeable, universal AirPods equipped with fitness and health tracking hardware.
The interchangeability is based on the fact that these AirPods are symmetrical. They can be used in both ears (and fit). Depending on the sensor values, the earphones would intelligently find out if they are being used left or right.
This application relates to earphones configured with one or more biometric sensors. At least one of the biometric sensors is configured to be pressed against a portion of the tragus to perform biometric measurements. In some embodiments, the housing of the earphone may be symmetrical so that the earphone can be replaceably worn in either a left or a right ear of a user. In such an embodiment, the earphone may include a sensor and circuitry configured to determine and change the operation of the earplug to determine which ear of the earphone is located.
Biometric sensors could not only use heart rate data for fitness tracking. They could also provide other information such as body temperature or even blood pressure. These AirPods should not be confused with the upcoming AirPods of the second generation. Anyone arriving with wireless charging next year would improve the current design.
The AirPods described in this patent, if they ever reach a development stage, let alone commercial availability, are on the road. However, it is good to see that Apple continues to innovate and improve its products.