Apple's interest in the health and fitness market may seem like a new niche, but a related patent goes back almost six years.
Filed in 2008 and awarded by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, a patent called "Sports monitoring system for headphones, earbuds and/or headsets" describes how such products could track your health and fitness and perform certain tasks based on how you move your head.
Key to the invention would be sensors embedded into one or more areas of the headsets or earbuds. By coming into contact with your skin, these sensors would be able to detect your heart rate, temperature, perspiration, and other physical stats. Wearing such a hands-free device would be a way to monitor and record your vitals as you exercise or play sports.
As a bonus, the sensors could also respond to the motion of your head to perform certain tasks. For example, let's say you're listening to music. Tilting your head one way would pause the current song, tilting it another would skip to the next track, and tilting it a third way would raise or lower the volume.
The system might even be smart enough to perform certain tasks automatically based on your condition or location. For example, if the device detects that you're getting tired, it could say something to try to motivate you to finish your workout. Or if it senses that you're jogging uphill, it might play your favorite song as a way to inspire you to make it to the top.
Recent reports say Apple has its eye on the health and fitness market, an area that could be targeted by the company's much-rumored iWatch. But smart, sensor-embedded headphones would provide some of the same information without need for a separate device, assuming this patented invention ever joins you on a real workout.