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Next Apple AirPods could come with built-in fitness tracking

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Wireless, lightweight, and perfect (well, sort of okay) for running – it seems a shame that Apple's AirPods don't have built in support for fitness tracking, right? The Cupertino company appears to be thinking along the same lines, if a newly-uncovered patent application is anything to go by.

According to PatentlyApple, (opens in new tab) Apple has filed a patent titled 'Earbuds with Biometric Sensing' which details in-ear and over-ear headphones with potential for fitness tracking features out of the box.

A photoplethysmogram (PPG) sensor would be pushed against the part of the ear known as the 'tragus'. This would take biometric readings by looking at the reflectivity of light coming off the skin, allowing it to detect the flow of blood under the skin and make a call on exercise intensity.

Robust tracking

According to the patent, Apple's system would let the likes of VO2, galvanic skin, impedance cardiography, temperature, EKG and heart rate be tracked through the in-ear measurements.

While galvanic skin and temperature readings performed in this way sound unique to this patent, it's worth noting that other fitness-focussed earphones, such as the Jabra Elite Sport and Samsung Gear IconX are already offering similar capabilities.

Not that the patent would be limited to in-ear models – illustrations accompanying the filing specifically highlight the potential for over-ear fitness cans, too.

The patent also shows the system incorporating three mics, triangulated, for a selective noise cancelling feature. Rather than blocking out all external sound, they could be set to allow directional choice over which sounds would be blocked from what angle.

As ever with a patent, the filing is no indication of an actual product in testing. But it is suggestive of Apple having far reaching plans for its future audio products beyond simply listening to music.

Gerald is the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Based out of TechRadar Towers, London, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.

Gerald dreams of the day when he can pop on a VR headset and meet Lawnmower Man-era Pierce Brosnan. Sadly, Pierce doesn't share the dream.