Just recently, Apple filed a number of new patents for its wireless earbuds. These include various technologies, functions, and new types of hardware. And now, these AirPods could also contribute to the safety of users.
One of the new patents describes a “contextual audio system” that would make AirPods a whole lot more self-aware. It could enable future AirPods to determine a user’s location or current activity and automatically adjust their audio accordingly.
If a person is standing on the side of the road with headphones in, riding a bicycle or walking on a busy street, the system might automatically adjust the audio settings to give you better awareness, either by lowering the volume or, if necessary, completely cutting off playback. According to Business insider, it may adjust the volume of audio on whatever ear is closer to the street, while leaving the other ear’s volume unchanged in this scenario. This would enable users to better perceive traffic and possibly avoid accidents. The system will also take into account whether the user is facing the street at all.
The new Apple AirPods should also provide feedback, directional instructions, safety information, and more. GPS data from smartphones or smartwatches, as well as the position data from the earphones, are used with the aim of providing users with greater security. Cyclists could also be protected in the future with the help of recorded speed data. If they exceed a certain speed limit, the music would be stopped.
The patent document does not particularly mention that this feature will be added to AirPods, but it does refer to a “wearable audio device,” suggesting that Apple has its wireless earbuds in mind for this feature.
The only open question is whether these functions will ever be installed. As usual, Apple files many patents all throughout the year, and a large proportion of them never come to fruition for commercial release.
Rumors about the AirPods 3 have been around for a long time. It is unclear when they will be launched. It also remains to be seen whether the new security features will already be integrated. In any case, a patent is no guarantee of actual market launch.