How Apple Wants AirPods To Help Save You From Road Mishaps

Apple is rumored to be toying with health-centric upgrades for AirPods, with heart rate measurement sitting at the top of the wishlist. However, it appears that Apple also wants AirPods to save users from mishaps, especially in areas like buzzing roads or construction sites where spatial awareness is crucial. In a series of patents filed before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Apple talks about a system that will make audio level adjustments automatically to make sure that users don't miss out on crucial audio cues from the surroundings, such as emergency alerts or a car honking around the corner.

Apple's patent for AirPods technology talks about using data such as the speed at which a person is traveling and the total distances covered, in combination with positional data and sensor readings on other devices, to pause music playback or lower the volume level. This will come in handy, especially in scenarios where an emergency alert or another critical warning message is being played nearby.

Based on GPS data collected by the paired phone or Apple Watch, the AirPods-based system will determine which direction the user is moving, accordingly adjusting the volume level on the left or right earbud to let in ambient audio cues. The system might also play a set of alerts already fed into the software of iPhones or the Apple Watch, kicking into action when a certain kind of motion data is detected by the AirPods and connected devices.

A life-saver in the making

The patent says audio output from the AirPods might be paused or lowered for scenarios in which "a user's attention is necessary, such as hazardous locations, at a job site, in an education facility." Aside from just motion activity (read: walking down a block or cycling), the system could also kick into action for emergency situations such as flood alerts, accidents, and weather alarms to name a few.

There is also mention of a specialized sensor that would work in tandem with data provided by other sensors fitted inside an iPhone or Apple Watch, to monitor torso position and determine the right course of action. As expected, the patent doesn't namedrop the AirPods, but the words "wearable audio device" in an Apple patent don't leave much room for imagining any other product. Aside from saving users from proximity hazards, the system could also have health benefits. For example, it could also announce details about body posture during workouts. 

Another Apple patent suggests that the company is thinking about a body posture detection system for the AirPods that will provide real-time feedback for scenarios like head tilt or torso stretch alongside an axis of rotation. But do keep in mind that these are patents after all, which means the idea may or may not ever make its way to a commercially available device in the near future, all of which are subject to technical feasibility and cost allowances.