Apple working on precise AirPods biometric sensors to monitor blood flow

Apple is looking into developing more precise biometric sensors for future AirPods models, following the release of a recent sensor that uses orientation detection to monitor blood flow changes, writes Apple Insider.

The company’s interest in health has grown lately, as a new patent demonstrates how in-ear sensors could determine fluctuations in blood volume. In the past, other Apple patents that discussed how AirPods could be used for pose detection and physical activity monitoring, while the new filing discusses how biometric measurements could determine blood volume alterations and measure voice input to make the earbud operational. The sensor would be placed in close contact with the skin to discreetly measure biometric data.

Apple explains in its patent filing:

“One exemplary type of biometric sensor that can be used to record biometric parameters of a user is a photoplethysmogram (PPG) sensor that measures biometric parameters by shining light and then measuring the reflectivity of that light off the skin. Variations in the reflectivity can be used to characterize profusion of the blood through the skin of a user. Unfortunately, the exterior surface of a conventional earbud doesn’t typically make sufficiently solid and/or consistent contact with a well-profused portion of the ear to provide reliable biometric parameter measurements. One solution to this problem is to arrange the PPG sensor along a surface of the earbud at an end of the earbud near a speaker opening of the earbud. In this way, when the speaker opening is aligned with the ear canal, the PPG sensor can contact an interior facing surface of the tragus of the ear.”

This week, Apple was granted 64 new patents, including one for an innovative Apple TV remote with biometric features such as Touch ID to prevent kids from accessing certain content at home. Last month, it was reported the company started looking into palm biometrics for user authentication.

Microsoft is also working on a competitive product to Apple’s AirPods, however there’s no information whether they will integrate health monitoring.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo are developing a biometric ear canal geometry recognition system to authenticate smartphone users with earbud headphones

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