Despite being a smash hit, Apple hasn’t launched the next version of its Airpods for more than 2 years. Now, Digitimes, an electronics publication well known for rumors, is reporting that the tech giant plans to launch the next-generation of its Bluetooth earbuds – the Airpods 2 – in 2019 with new health monitoring features.
The rumor, however, doesn’t talk about the specifics on the features. Theoretically, both heart rate and blood pressure could be tracked from the ear.
Starkey Hearing Technologies unveiled Livio AI, an Artificial Intelligence-powered hearing aid that automatically translates foreign languages, and tracks both your physical and mental health at the CES 2019.
Valencell, a US firm that develops biometric sensor technology for wearables and hearables, announced an ear-based blood pressure sensor at the CES 2019. The company is also working on earbud-based heart rate sensors available since 2014.
“The technology works by looking at the different waves, seeing which waves it likes, and then processing those waves into estimated blood pressure based on the characteristics of those waves,” Valencell President Dr. Steven LeBoeuf told MobiHealthNews in an onsite demo at the event. “The reason the technology doesn’t work at the wrist is manyfold, but it has to do with you just need a whole lot more data. You may need about a thousand times more data to make the wrist work as well as in the ear becaus all the different structures in the wrist and the variations in the wrist complicates how you process the blood pressure because we’re not directly measuring blood pressure. What we’re doing is a transfer function between the blood flow and the blood pressure, and that transfer function has less variation on the ear and the finger — actually, it works a lot better on the ear than the finger.”
If the next gen AirPods really do feature health sensors, it will be interesting to see what type of health tracking they are capable of performing. Previously, Apple filed a patent for wireless earbuds with build-in sensors for heart rate monitoring and measuring body temperature.