Apple’s AirPods could soon verify a user’s identity based on the inside of their ear, which could stop them from being used by thieves.
The tech giant has filed a patent for an in-ear biometric device that uses ultrasonic signals reflected against the walls of a user’s ear canal.
Such technology would prevent lost AirPods from being used by anyone other than the owner if they get misplaced or stolen.
Currently, AirPods and other headphones pose a security risk because anyone can wear them to give Siri commands or even access private information.
Apple AirPods could soon identify you based on the shape of your ear canal, the patent filing explains
The product could ‘determine whether [the] users is an authorised user’, although the patent doesn’t specifically mention AirPods
Biometrics are any metrics related to human features.
The most common examples of a biometric recognition system is the iPhone’s fingerprint and facial recognition technology.
Every time you unlock a smartphone screen with a facial recognition, ask Siri for a weather update, or log in to your online bank account using your fingerprint, you’re using biometrics.
As an emerging technology, biometric systems can add great convenience by replacing passwords and helping law enforcement catch criminals.
The new patent, granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office and listed on January 27, was first noticed by Patently Apple.
Although Apple files many patents that haven’t made it to market, the tech giant says this patent ‘relates generally to user identification and, more specifically, to user identification using headphones’.
However, AirPods aren’t specifically mentioned in the patent, suggesting the product could come under a different name.
It would act as a new form of biometrics, just like facial recognition and fingerprint detection are already used to unlock smartphones.
Apple admits conventional wireless headphones that connect to a person’s smartphone typically allow use by an unauthorised person.
‘Conventional systems do not address whether the user wearing the headphones is authorised to interact with personal features of the device, such as receiving messages from the device,’ the patent reads.
‘As a result, conventional systems may risk releasing personal information from an associated device to unauthorized wearers of corresponding headphones.
‘Accordingly, improved systems for user identification using headphones is desired.’
Currently, AirPods and other headphones pose a security risk because anyone can wear them to give Siri commands or even access private information. Pictured are AirPods Pro released in 2019
New patents awarded to Apple in 2021 suggest it may be working on a drone.
They describe small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that pair with wireless controllers.
The images in the patents depict a small drone with four rotors, a common designed for small UAVs.
Apple, however, initially filed the patents in Singapore ‘to keep the projects a secret, reported 9to5Mac.
If the technology comes to market, the device would emit ultrasonic sound waves – those outside the range of human hearing.
Variations in the surface of the user’s ear canal may cause the ultrasonic signal to reflect off the skin surface and generate an echo with a unique signature that is associated with the user and no-one else.
‘For example, a user having a larger ear canal may result in an echo having a longer reverberation time than a user having a smaller ear canal,’ Apple says in the patent.
As an alternative to using ultrasonic waves, Apple may create headphones that detect a person’s gait – the way they walk, the patent also suggests.
‘The gait information may include, for example, information regarding a user’s walking and/or running characteristics, such as characteristics related to steps, pace, stride, and the like,’ Apple says.
Currently, Apple’s flagship headphone product is the wireless third-generation AirPods, released last October and priced at £169 ($179).
The new AirPods are water and sweat resistant and boast a six-hour battery life – nearly 40 minutes longer than its predecessor – and a charging case providing up to 30 hours of power.
Apple also still offers the wired EarPods, which are significantly cheaper, priced at £19.
AirPods aren’t specifically mentioned in the patent, suggesting the product could come under a different name (stock image)
According to another recently-filed Apple patent, the firm is working on an iPhone that has a glass display going all the way around.
Dubbed ‘a single slab of glass’, the patent shows a device with displays on both its front and back, as well as touchscreen buttons on its curved glass edges.
Fitting the back of an iPhone with a 360-degree glass display could potentially more than double the display size, without changing the shape or size of the device.
Apple could also be launching its long-rumoured augmented reality (AR) headset in 2022, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has claimed.
Apple could launch its augmented reality headset in 2022, a Hong Kong-based leaker has said.
The headset will be released in the fourth quarter of the year and contain two processors, one ‘with the same computing power level as the Mac’, said Ming-Chi Kuo in a research note as viewed by MacRumors.
This processor will be ‘similar’ to M1, Apple’s own in-house-designed computer chip, currently used in its Macintosh computers and iPad Pro tablets.
The second, lower-end processor, meanwhile, will manage the ‘sensor-related aspects’ of the headset. Computing power of this sensor will be ‘significantly higher’ than that of the iPhone, however.
Kuo also said the headset will be able to support virtual reality (VR) as well as AR, thanks to a pair of 4K Micro OLED displays from Sony.
AR layers computer-generated images on top of an existing reality – Pokémon Go being a famous example – while VR is wholly virtual.
Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities in Hong Kong, is known for garnering information on Apple’s plans from his contacts within the company’s Asian supply chain.
However, Kuo predicted in June that the will launch in spring 2022, so it seems the timeframe has been pushed back – and could be pushed back again.
In October 2021, Kuo said Apple’s upcoming headset will also be wireless and use Wi-Fi 6E, the newest version of Wi-Fi, allowing it faster speeds and a higher number of connections.
It’s possible the Apple headset will still likely have to connect to an iPhone or Mac computer, but that a future iteration of the device may not.
According to another recent report from Digitimes, citing supply chain sources, the product will cost as much $2,000 (£1,500).
The upcoming headset would likely not be aimed at consumers, but instead be geared towards developers and business customers, this report alleged.
A more consumer focused AR product, known as Apple Glass, would be released until 2023 at the earliest and would look more like a conventional pair of spectacles, it added.
A 2019 report from The Information collaborates the suggestion that Apple is working on two AR/VR products.
Apple Glass would present a digital display on the lenses to complement surrounding environments, such as arrows to help consumers find their destination in cities.
Making Apple Glasses look more like normal glasses instead of a more chunky headset could make them more appealing to the consumer market.