The AirPods security feature could turn off your music

Apple today received a patent for an AirPods security feature that could detect when a wearer is at risk. AirPods could respond by pausing or lowering the volume of your music so you can focus on the potential danger.

The patent also describes a possible smart exercise mat that would detect how safely or effectively you are exercising…


Apple has been exploring the possibility of using existing sensors to add functionality to AirPods for some time.

For example, research conducted with Cornell University has shown how AirPods microphones can detect breathing rate during or after exercise. This patent describes a possible way to mix data from AirPods and an iPhone or an Apple Watch to add functionality.

AirPods security feature

In its patent document, Apple explains that AirPods can be great for entertainment or education, but they also come with risks.

Recent advances in portable computing have provided users with an unprecedented amount of content to use in almost any environment. Portable electronic devices such as earbuds, headphones, glasses, and the like provide audio to a user essentially wherever and whenever he or she may be located. While this makes the user’s choice easier, it has the unintended side effect that in some situations it often draws a user’s attention or otherwise distracts him or her. This can affect a user’s safety as well as the safety of those around him.

Apple suggests GPS data streamed from an iPhone or Apple Watch could be combined with existing AirPods sensors to determine location and speed, and one or both AirPods placed in the ear.

For example, GPS data might show that you’re running fast toward a busy intersection and that both AirPods are in your ears, meaning you might not be fully aware of traffic as you cross the street. In this situation, the AirPods could stop playing or reduce the volume. This would serve to warn you of a potential hazard and better enable you to be aware of traffic movement.

If you’re walking next to a road, the AirPods may only reduce or reduce the volume on the ear facing traffic.

The direction of movement may indicate that a user is moving with his or her right side toward the road along a shoulder of a road (assuming the user is walking forward). Thus, the audio output can be adjusted to the right ear. If the movement data indicates that the user is walking towards the road with his or her left side, the audio output can be adjusted to the left ear.

If your speed and movement suggest you’re riding a bike and location data suggests the road is busy, your AirPods could automatically turn down the volume to give you better situational awareness.

The patent suggests even more intelligence.

[Data might include] Language selected on an electronic device (to the extent that that language can provide clues or indications of a user’s home country).

For example, if it detects that you are in a country where people drive across the street from your home country, it could put you at greater risk when crossing roads and apply stricter safety rules.

Intelligent training mat

The patent goes on to suggest that sensors in a smart exercise mat could tell if you’re following an exercise instruction correctly – with your AirPods letting you know if you’re not.

The sensor is positioned in or under an exercise mat; the contextual data includes a position of the user on the exercise mat; determining whether the user is performing the activity correctly includes determining whether the user’s location is the same as an expected location of the user; and the second audio output includes verbal instructions for correcting the user’s position.

An obvious use for this would be Apple Fitness+ workouts, where the system knows what you’re doing should do and feel what you are doing are do and give appropriate feedback. (“Hey, go ahead, you lazy bum!” maybe?)

As always with Apple patents, there is no telling whether it will ever come to market. Would you like to see these AirPods security or smart training mat features rolled out? Please let us know in the comments.

About Patently Apple. Photo: Metin Ozer/Unsplash.

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