Apple researches respiratory rate measurement via AirPods microphone


Apple is researching the use of its headphones for fitness and health purposes: In a study, scientists from the group examined whether the integrated microphone in the AirPods is suitable for estimating the wearer’s breathing rate on the basis of short audio recordings. Such a comparatively inexpensive possibility of recording the breathing rate makes it possible, for example, to record cardiorespiratory fitness over a longer period of time or to follow the course of an infection.

A good 20 test persons recorded their breathing rate via AirPods microphone before, during and after a short but intensive training session – both indoors and outdoors. Despite the ambient noise, the algorithms used to improve the source audio material and the analysis were able to estimate the breathing rate with high accuracy, it says in the advance publicationthat has not yet been assessed.

The authors see this as a promising approach to developing a “respiratory health tool” – but this would require further studies with a larger number of participants.

It remains to be seen whether Apple will later implement the examined method for recording the respiratory rate as an AirPods function. Patent applications show that Apple has been working on integrating additional sensors into the true wireless earbuds for some time in order to record biometric data in the ear, such as heart rate, oxygen consumption and body temperature. According to reports, the second generation of AirPods Pro, expected for 2022, will enable fitness tracking through improved motion sensors, but there are no specific details so far.

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In contrast to other fitness watches, the Apple Watch does not yet determine the breathing rate. Only with watchOS 8 can the respiratory rate be recorded during sleep – here it is determined using the watch’s movement sensors.


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