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The cameras on your next AirPods aren't for taking ear selfies

Apple could incorporate IR cameras into its wireless earbuds to enable more immersive spatial experiences.

Published onJuly 1, 2024

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) ear tip separated from the housing.
Lil Katz / Android Authority
  • AirPods could feature IR cameras by 2026, unlocking a new set of Apple ecosystem perks when paired with a compatible device.
  • The upcoming IR cameras could support in-air gesture controls and enhance the spatial audio/computing experiences.
  • Foxconn could provide 18-20 million IR cameras per year, allowing Apple to produce up to 10 million AirPods units during 2026.

Apple products work better together by design. For example, when pairing AirPods with one of the latest iPhones, users get some exclusive perks. These include support for Siri, Personalized Spatial Audio, and more. To further encourage its users to rely on AirPods, Apple could incorporate IR cameras into its excellent wireless earbuds by 2026. This upgrade could unlock even more ecosystem features, especially when paired with an Apple Vision Pro.

According to the reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple could bake IR cameras into AirPods by 2026. This change would reportedly enhance the Vision Pro’s spatial audio/computing experiences by tracking users’ precise head movements and surroundings. He states:

“The new AirPods is expected to be used with Vision Pro and future Apple headsets to enhance the user experience of spatial audio and strengthen the spatial computing ecosystem. For example, when a user is watching a video with Vision Pro and wearing this new AirPods, if users turn their heads to look in a specific direction, the sound source in that direction can be emphasized to enhance the spatial audio/computing experience.”

Beyond spatial improvements, the IR cameras could unlock in-air gesture controls. This would presumably allow users to control media playback without touching their AirPods. Apple has already filed relevant patents for such functionality, so the feature’s introduction is plausible.

Based on the report, Foxconn will be able to provide Apple with 18-20 million IR cameras annually. As a result, the Cupertino firm may manufacture no more than 10 million camera-equipped AirPods in 2026.

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