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Apple's latest wild idea could be putting cameras in your AirPods

Apple is also thinking of more conventional smart ring and smart glasses.
By

Published onFebruary 26, 2024

Apple Airpods Pro Gen 2 vs. Apple Airpods Pro Gen 1 Hero Image 2
Lily Katz / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Apple has been exploring the idea of adding cameras to earbuds the size of AirPods. These camera-AirPods could capture and process data through AI to assist people in their daily routines.
  • Consumers could get some of the benefits of smart glasses without needing lenses and frames. However, the idea is exploratory and may not become a real product.
  • Apple is also exploring smart ring and smart glasses products in conceptual and exploratory stages.

It’s right to call the Apple AirPods a cultural revolution. Bluetooth TWS existed before the AirPods came into the picture, but Apple truly marketed them to the moon and back, to the point where good wireless earbuds have practically phased out wired earbuds. While we wait for Apple to innovate further for the AirPods Pro 3, the company could have some weird ideas on what to do next: add cameras to your earbuds!

According to a Bloomberg report, Apple has been exploring the idea of putting cameras on AirPods alongside more advanced AI and health sensors. This idea was investigated through an experiment codenamed “B798,” which began last year. The investigation involved Apple engineers figuring out how to fit low-resolution camera sensors into earbuds, which are about the size of today’s AirPods. Such cameras could capture data, which could then be processed via AI to assist people in their daily routines. This could give consumers some of the benefits of smart glasses without needing lenses and frames.

To clarify, the report mentions that the product may never reach the market. It is an exploration of an idea, after all. But Apple is intent on making something unique work in the wearable space.

Alongside camera-AirPods, Apple is also exploring a smart ring and smart glasses. The smart ring would borrow health-tracking features from the Apple Watch, while the smart glasses would be a stepping stone toward wider AR use cases. It could use AI and cameras to identify things in real life and provide audio.

The report clarifies that the ring is simply an idea and is not being actively developed. How it could shape up remains to be seen. It could be a low-cost way to gather key health data without wearing a smartwatch. It could be sold as an iPhone accessory and maybe sold through a subscription model. It would add to the iPhone ecosystem lock-in, and while it wouldn’t generate as much money as a smartwatch, it would still open Apple up to a new consumer base.

The smart glasses are in an exploratory phase internally known as “technology investigation.” Similar to the smart ring, smart glasses would be a less ambitious alternative to the Apple Vision Pro and also be an AirPods replacement in certain situations. The smart glasses could still include cameras, speakers, and health sensors.

The future for Apple could be a combination of these three products coming together. Or it could be none of these, too. But it’s clear that Apple wants to push the envelope beyond its safe havens of iPhones and AirPods for its next big thing.

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