KEY POINTS

  • Apple won a new patent for a wireless earbud with improved interactivity features
  • This device has the ability to detect gestures made by hands in-air
  • The patent doesn't guarantee that such a feature will make its way to the future AirPods

Apple's newly granted patent shows the company's interest in equipping future AirPods Pro models with sensors that could detect in-air gestures, among other things.

Apple's AirPods Pro offers the best that the company currently has when it comes to wireless in-ear earbuds. It offers the convenience of “Hey Siri,” active noise cancellation, as well as “Transparency” mode. It is easy to use and only requires users to input commands via presses or voice.

A new patent, however, shows that Apple is looking to improve on the AirPods Pro's ease of use, particularly how it can be manipulated to do a variety of things.

A new patent titled “wearable interactive audio device,” granted to Apple and published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently describes an audio device that looks like the AirPods Pro – complete with the in-ear tips and protruding stem. This new device, however, has multiple ways to detect user input.

“The earbud may be configured to detect gestures, physical manipulations, and so forth performed along or on the earbud,” the patent said. 

The device will be able to do this using several sensors placed inside its body, including magnetic sensors, strain sensors, resistive sensors and electroactive polymers.

The choice of words used in the patent, as well as one of the patent illustrations, indicates that it will be able to detect, to a certain extent, gestures that a user makes at a distance away from the device.

Apple wearable interactive audio device Apple's new patent shows an AirPods Pro model with the ability to detect in-air gestures. Photo: Apple/USPTO

The patent stated that the device's “sensors may include substantially any input device, sensor, sensing element, sensing structure, switch, or the like, or combination thereof, that is responsive to environmental changes around the wearable audio device.”

The document revealed that such sensors might be able to “detect a capacitance between an electrode of the sensor and the user. As the user moves toward (and optionally presses on) the enclosure, the capacitance changes.”

The device will then be able to determine the position of the user's finger relative to the device and will respond to this as if responding to a button press.

While the patent has been granted, it is no guarantee that Apple will actually be able to bring such technology to the market.

AirPods Pro AirPods have give Apple users a wireless delight that packs a punch despite its small size. Keep it safe with a waterproof casing. Photo: Feruzbek Matkarimov / Pexels