The AirPods could become Apple's next "health tool"
"Power On," Bloomberg writer Mark Gurman's weekly tech newsletter, is disseminated every Sunday and today was no exception. One of the interesting topics that Gurman mentioned in the latest version of "Power On" is how Apple plans on turning the AirPods, its wireless Bluetooth earbuds, into a "health tool" over the next year or two. In fact, as Gurman points out, the AirPods' Live Listen feature that amplifies sound from across a room, allows the wearable to be used as an unofficial pair of hearing aids.
Gurman writes that he wouldn't be surprised if Apple eventually makes the AirPods an FDA-approved hearing aid. Recently, the rules were changed in the U.S. and hearing aids can now be purchased without a prescription and this would allow Apple to market future AirPods as a hearing aid. Gurman says that offering AirPods as hearing aids could possibly help more than tens of millions of people.
Illustration from 2016 filing as Apple sought to patent biometric sensors for its earbuds
Back in 2016, Apple received a patent for a system that would allow Apple to track a user's heart rate, body temperature, and other health-related biometric data by collecting this information through earbuds and earphones. The biometric sensor would be placed inside one of the earbuds. Apple even received patents a few years before the release of the first AirPods about sensors embedded in earphones that would measure a user's heart rate and perspiration level.
Besides the aforementioned Live Listen feature, there is an option for AirPods Pro users who are hard of hearing. Conversation Boost, when enabled, uses the microphone on the device to help amplify conversations taking place right in front of the user. It's not as helpful or as powerful as Live Listen, but it does make it a little easier for the user to follow a conversation.
With the Apple Watch already well known for using its health-related features to save lives, it's possible that Apple sees the possibility of marketing the two wearable devices as one health-related tool and offers some kind of bundle.
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