Apple Plans to Turn AirPods into a Health Tool
Bloomberg writer Mark Gurman’s weekly tech newsletter, “Power On,” revealed that Apple plans to turn its wireless Bluetooth earbuds, AirPods, into a “health tool” over the next year or two. Gurman notes that the AirPods’ Live Listen feature, which amplifies sound from across a room, allows the wearable to be used as an unofficial pair of hearing aids.
Gurman speculates that Apple may eventually make the AirPods an FDA-approved hearing aid, as recent changes in U.S. regulations now allow hearing aids to be purchased without a prescription. This would enable Apple to market future AirPods as a hearing aid, potentially helping tens of millions of people.
Illustration from 2016 filing as Apple sought to patent biometric sensors for its earbuds
In 2016, Apple received a patent for a system that would allow the company to track a user’s heart rate, body temperature, and other health-related biometric data through earbuds and earphones. The biometric sensor would be placed inside one of the earbuds. Apple even received patents a few years before the release of the first AirPods about sensors embedded in earphones that would measure a user’s heart rate and perspiration level.
AirPods Pro users who are hard of hearing can use the Conversation Boost feature, which uses the device’s microphone to amplify conversations taking place right in front of the user. While not as powerful as Live Listen, it does make it easier for the user to follow a conversation.
With the Apple Watch already known for using its health-related features to save lives, it’s possible that Apple sees the potential to market the two wearable devices as one health-related tool and offer some kind of bundle.