Future Apple AirPods – including the rumored AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro Lite – could automatically pause or lower the volume of your music if they detect hazards in your surroundings, according to a patent granted to the company on August 11.
The patent describes a pair of true wireless earbuds that are capable of adjusting their audio output based on the user's activities and location, including "adjusting audio volume, stopping or preventing audio from playing, providing feedback, directions, encouragement, advice, safety information, instructions, and the like".
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Using a combination of GPS data from a smartphone or smartwatch and positional data from the earbuds themselves, the patent describes how future AirPods could help users stay safe while near busy roads:
"As one non-limiting example, the sensing device may determine that the wearable audio device engages both ears and that the user is at a side of, or on, a road."
The earbuds would then "pause or prevent audio playback" through the speaker adjacent to the road, allowing you to hear traffic while still listening to music through the other earbud.
Speed data, presumably taken from a built-in accelerometer in the AirPods themselves, could also be used to keep cyclists safe, by pausing music when the speed is above a certain threshold.
It's not all about safety, though – previous Apple patents have suggested ways that this technology could actually coach you through your workouts.
According to Patently Apple, new AirPods could communicate via Bluetooth with an iPhone, and "may form part of an AirPods system that supplies the user with coaching and feedback while evaluating user performance of a head movement routine or other exercise routine".
This could be particularly useful for exercises like yoga, with the AirPods providing realtime feedback on a user's head tilts, poses, and stretches.
While these features sound exciting, a patent is no guarantee that we'll actually see them realized as part of a real product.
Still, rumors of fitness-focused AirPods have been circling for months now, and we're expecting to see the so-called AirPods 3 fairly soon – if not in 2020.
Industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that the next-gen AirPods would start mass production in early 2021, with a new AirPods Pro model (the rumored AirPods Pro Lite) arriving in 2022 too (via AppleInsider).
In any case, we'd love to see more fitness-focused features in either of these rumored wireless earbuds – after all, the original AirPods design meant that they weren't particularly suitable for working out.