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Apple researchers have discovered that wearable devices like AirPods can be used to estimate a user's respiratory rate, opening up another potential avenue in biometric health sensor smarts.

airpodsincasehands.jpg

Respiratory rate (RR) is a clinical metric used to assess overall health and physical fitness. In a paper highlighted on the Apple Machine Learning Research website and spotted by MyHealthyApple, researchers found that "wearable headphones" are able to pick up audible inhalations and exhalations during exertion using the device's on-board microphones.

According to the paper, the appeal of remote estimation of RR is that it offers a cost-effective method of tracking disease progression and cardio-respiratory fitness over time using "accessible, aesthetically acceptable," non-invasive wearable devices.
Data was collected from 21 individuals using microphone-enabled, near-field headphones before, during, and after strenuous exercise. RR was manually annotated by counting audibly perceived inhalations and exhalations.

A multi-level convolutional neural network was used to achieve signal clarity among other things and the results observed show that RR can be estimated with a concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) of 0.76 and a mean squared error (MSE) of 0.2, demonstrating that audio can be a viable signal for passively estimating RR.

[...]

Results presented validate that RR can be estimated from audio captured using wearable microphones, enabling the detection of heavy breathing conditions and the monitoring of RR changes, a measure of cardio-respiratory fitness, over time. The findings show promise for further development of a respiratory health tool with a larger study cohort.
While the paper doesn't name AirPods as such, Apple is known to have explored the potential of adding health monitoring features to the truly wireless earphones. For example, one Apple patent describes an earbud-based fitness monitoring system which integrates an advanced biometric sensor that can detect physiological metrics including temperature, heart rate, perspiration levels and more, through skin contact and via built-in motion sensors.

Meanwhile, DigiTimes has suggested that health sensors could be included in AirPods in one to two years, and Apple's vice president of technology Kevin Lynch in June 2021 said that Apple may one day build health features into the AirPods to provide users with additional health data.

Apple is already expected to add support for respiratory rate tracking via a user's Apple Watch in iOS 15. Code seen by MacRumors suggests that the Health app will be able to display respiratory rate data after a workout or upon waking up, along with blood glucose highlights and heart rate.

The debut of new health monitoring features in ‌iOS 15‌ cannot be taken as concrete evidence that Apple is planning to bring them to the Apple Watch Series 7, but we'll find out soon for sure. The Apple Watch Series 7 is expected to be announced in September, alongside third-generation AirPods that ape the AirPods Pro design.

Article Link: Apple Research Suggests AirPods Could Be Used to Estimate Respiratory Rate
 

boak

macrumors 6502
Jun 26, 2021
342
492
Not sure how this is gonna work. There's gonna be so many gaps in the data. It's not like AirPods are being worn throughout the day, unlike the Apple Watch.

Maybe they'll just display the average or something.
 

macgabe

macrumors 6502
Dec 29, 2012
295
236
Rockley also building a module for a hearable for possible launch 2022. Some speculation they're working with Apple
Screenshot 2021-03-23 at 11.47.55.png
 

DanTSX

macrumors 65816
Oct 22, 2013
1,026
1,441
More data for the health app! Go science!
While I agree with a pro-science approach (I F’ING LOVE SCIENCE!!!!!). I’m not sure relying on the consumers is going to be very scientific.

This may be clinically dangerous to rely on this data for diagnosis. Which is certainly NOT “scientific”.
 
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sw1tcher

macrumors 68020
Jan 6, 2004
2,454
4,838
Apple researchers have discovered that wearable devices like AirPods can be used to estimate a user's respiratory rate, opening up another potential avenue in biometric health sensor smarts.
Data will probably be inconsistent and unusable


Amazing Apple. Tim said Apple’s greatest achievements will be health related. Apple is the gioat…that “i” would be innovator.

I think "i" is for inconsistent

 

aliensporebomb

macrumors 68000
Jun 19, 2005
1,900
327
Minneapolis, MN, USA, Urth
Not sure how this is gonna work. There's gonna be so many gaps in the data. It's not like AirPods are being worn throughout the day, unlike the Apple Watch.

Maybe they'll just display the average or something.
You would be surprised. I see people walking around with those things all day long at the office and out in the world sometimes.
 
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iOS Geek

macrumors 6502a
Nov 7, 2017
960
1,920
Not sure how this is gonna work. There's gonna be so many gaps in the data. It's not like AirPods are being worn throughout the day, unlike the Apple Watch.

Maybe they'll just display the average or something.
Here's my healthcare humor for the day...
Screen Shot 2021-08-12 at 11.51.30 AM.png

On the serious note, I'd guess "average" will be the way to go. The thing with that though is (using me as an example), I usually only wear mine when I'm exercising. That's the bulk of my AirPods usage (let's say 80% just to put a number on it). That would give me a high value that isn't exactly representative of "normal".

Though now that I think of it, doesn't watchOS 8 have that ability coming with it? If it does, that would pretty much take care of my previous statement. Unless it's only being used with the sleep tracking.
 

Mac4Mat

Suspended
May 12, 2021
168
465
Did anyone ask for "a thousand songs in your pocket?" Or a glass phone keyboard?
Yes, as the thousands songs was why the iPod came out? But if was providing a choice, and as Steve Jobs aptly put it.

“Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain language, and repeatedly.”

The purchasers if iPods etc., knew they were signing up for a device that played music....

or another Steve Jobs quote, which Apple should really read and inwardly digest.

“I believe people are smart. Some people want to share more than other people do. Ask them."
 

McG2k1

macrumors 6502
Jun 22, 2011
279
455
Apple never misses a chance to track more data to swear they’re keeping private. Less and less confidence in them, the last month especially.
 

nitramluap

macrumors 6502
Apr 26, 2015
396
922
My guess is that the next big health detection feature will be snoring/sleep apnoea. WatchOS 8 already detects respiratory rate (not sure how), the Apple Watch has SpO2 measurements and their are ‘noise type detection’ features on the iPhone already (dog, siren, etc).

Seems like the next logical step, as undetected sleep apnoea is a killer.
 
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hasanahmad

macrumors 65816
May 20, 2009
1,367
1,179
Would’ve been excited to see this a week ago. Nowadays I’m questioning whether I trust Apple with my health data.
Apparently scanning for child porn is what puts folks over the edge. doesn't matter if its only icloud data and nothing else. it is the attempt to catch child porn which broke the camels back for users, not anything else. fascinating...disturbing
 

nitramluap

macrumors 6502
Apr 26, 2015
396
922
Apparently scanning for child porn is what puts folks over the edge. doesn't matter if its only icloud data and nothing else. it is the attempt to catch child porn which broke the camels back for users, not anything else. fascinating...disturbing
Exactly. Apple has been doing private, on-device scanning for years (ie. It’s why you can search your photos for faces, or objects) but now suddenly people are ‘up in arms’. Gross.

All they’re doing is adding the ability to detect specific (and known-to-authorities) CSAM in someone’s library, but only if they’re syncing to iCloud. I presume this limitation is for two reasons: 1) Apple could be seen as ‘complicit’ if they’re storing these images for people, and 2) Once detected & flagged, they can lock someone’s online library for authorities should the perpetrator delete their local copy.
 
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