It seems Apple isn’t content with AirPods just being used for music and taking calls as there’s a new report claiming Apple is exploring adding new health and wellness features to future wireless earbuds.
According to “people familiar with the plans” who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is currently studying the potential for AirPods to take a bigger role when it comes to monitoring someone’s health and fitness. While the new features aren’t expected to be available until next year (assuming these features make it past the testing phase), the three main functions Apple is reportedly evaluating is using AirPods to check someone’s temperature, monitor their posture, and serve as a hearing aid or some kind of hearing enhancement.
The first two features are relatively straightforward, as Apple could update the accelerometers already built-in to current AirPods to more accurately track someone’s posture and body position, while new temperature sensors would make it relatively simple to get accurate readings of someone’s core temperature for inside their ear.
However, the more difficult task will be getting AirPods certified as proper hearing aids, as current U.S. regulations require medically-approved hearing aids to be sold by licensed hearing specialists, though there is upcoming legislation that could ease those restrictions and go into effect sometime next year.
Additionally, based on the five-hour battery life of current AirPods, it’s somewhat unlikely that future devices would provide the kind of true all-day battery life that people with hearing loss would probably need from a dedicated hearing aid, which means Apple may be forced to focus more on providing enhanced hearing capabilities instead.
While the idea of expanding the AirPods’ duties outside music may seem like a stretch, expanded health and wellness features have turned into a rapidly growing trend among audio device makers, with Bose having been granted FDA-clearance for its SoundConrol Hearing Aids and companies like Amazfit having already made earbuds that can track your posture and heartrate with its Powerbuds Pro.
Even Apple-rival Samsung is exploring similar ideas, with Samsung’s head audio engineer Han-gil Moon telling Gizmodo that in the future, Samsung hopes to leverage AI to improve the voice detection and ambient sound-enhancing capabilities on future wireless earbuds.
More importantly, given the success of the Apple Watch—which has thrived due in large part to a range of included health and fitness tracking features—it’s clear Apple is looking to expand those capabilities to more devices including the iPhone, which is reportedly being evaluated to see if it can potentially detect certain patterns related to mental health or cognitive impairment.