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Apple is investigating how AirPods can detect motion and position, partly to help with spatial audio, but also to gauge body movement during Fitness+ workouts.
Apple Fitness+ may be an extremely well-produced service, but inevitably it’s online. There isn’t really an instructor watching and encouraging you, there just seems to be.
Therefore, there are only a few ways Apple can tell that you actually did the workout you said. Apple Watch is the main way, as it monitors your heart rate during the session, but you might just freak out a lot about not doing the exercise.
So in the future, Apple Fitness+ may interpret more cues, data that can’t be fooled by your excessive caffeine intake. “Wireless earphone system with pose detection” is a newly revealed patent application that proposes to determine the details of your movement via AirPods.
“Headphones may have sensors to collect orientation information such as accelerometer measurements during user movement,” the patent application states. “A host electronic device can communicate wirelessly with the earbuds and can be part of an earbud system that provides the user with coaching and feedback while evaluating the user’s performance of a movement routine of head or another exercise routine.”
These should be measurements fine enough to register when, say, an Apple Fitness+ trainer told you to raise your right arm above your head. But Apple suggests that any deviation from a starting position, or any deviation from a “fixed earth orientation”, could help.
“During operation, the headphones may collect accelerometer data…and may use a rotation matrix,” he continues. “Data in the neutral frame of reference can be analyzed using a user’s head pose lookup table to categorize the measured user’s head positions as corresponding to the respective poses of the user’s head.”
So someone at the Apple Fitness Center in Los Angeles can now even work on a catalog of head movements while being recorded. Turn left, turn right, stretch, all could be compiled into a reference chart, just like dismayed heads.
There is certainly one aspect of this patent application that could apply to Spatial Audio, with precise changes to the audio being made when the user turns their head or moves their body. However, Apple isn’t done with the fitness aspect just yet.
“Feedback such as audible feedback can be provided to a user based on the user’s performance rating of the head movement routine,” he says. “Other appropriate actions can be taken, such as publishing performance reports and alerts.”
So, in theory, Apple Fitness+ trainers could record any number of critical feedback on your performance, and the AirPods would play them as needed.
Fortunately, Apple’s patent application adds that all of this can be done “if you wish”.