Apple is deepening its investigation of the use of portable systems with audio to improve health. A research article posted on Apple’s website details the promise of estimating respiratory rates with the help of AirPods. An idea that, although not new, can come in handy especially for athletes who use these headphones.
The article is titled “Estimation of respiratory rate from breath audio obtained through portable microphones”. In it, they play with the idea of being able to use new methods to monitor the respiratory rate. Above all, there is talk of doing it during the effort made by a sample of healthy population that are using AirPods. The data obtained is collected through the audio collected and emitted by the headphones.
Apple hopes to demonstrate that ‘readily available, aesthetically acceptable, and relatively affordable devices such as AirPods can be used to estimate respiratory rates and track cardiorespiratory fitness«.
While sensors such as thermistors, breathing transducers, and acoustic sensors provide the most accurate estimate of a person’s breathing patterns, they are intrusive and may not be comfortable for everyday use. In contrast, portable headphones are relatively affordable, accessible, comfortable, and aesthetically acceptable.
Apple’s study focuses on estimate respiratory rates during physical activity. Although the researchers point out that similar techniques could be applied to scenarios related to shortness of breath. Dyspnea on exertion is often used in medical studies and may be a “strong independent predictor of mortality.”
Apple asked test participants to record a series of audio clips before, during and after a training session. The data was analyzed with the help of a neural network to denote the respiratory rates of an individual. The system was able to achieve metrics considered viable.