The US Patent & Trademark Office has granted a patent to Apple for next-generation AirPods, which could measure electrooculography (EOG), electromyography (EMG), electroencephalography (EEG), and other biosignals. The patent application reveals that active and reference electrodes would be strategically placed within and on the tips of the AirPods to capture these measurements, as they can monitor brain activity when attached to the user’s scalp.
Apple’s patent suggests that the future AirPods may be customizable to accurately measure ear-EEG, as the size and shape of ears vary from individual to individual. To address changes in users’ ear canals over time, the company proposes – in the words of the Patently Apple website – using “different subsets of the electrodes for measuring the biosignals for different users or at different times”.
The wearable electronic device may consist of a set of electrodes placed at various locations on the nonplanar surface, a sensor circuit, and a switching circuit, with the latter designed to electrically connect different subsets of one or more electrodes in the set of electrodes to the sensor circuit.
Not all technologies proposed in patent applications come to fruition, but the speculation about Apple’s plans to incorporate health monitoring capabilities in AirPods continues to grow.
Recent reports suggest Apple is exploring features to measure body temperature through the ear canal, and a hearing test feature to assess a user’s hearing abilities.