Camera-Powered AirPods Could Beef Up Apple’s Augmented Reality Tech

Camera-Powered AirPods Could Beef Up Apple’s Augmented Reality Tech

Apple is reportedly bringing cameras to AirPods, ear hairs be damned.

The $US3 trillion company intends to mass-produce revamped earbuds with built-in infrared cameras by 2026, according to a new report from analyst and longtime Apple insider Ming-Chi Kuo. The cameras could help Apple shore up its current and future augmented-reality headsets with enhanced spatial audio features, the analyst wrote.

Citing a supply-chain survey, Kuo indicated that pairing these enhanced buds with Vision Pro goggles could make Apple’s spatial-computing experience more lifelike. For example, “if users turn their heads to look in a specific direction, the sound source in that direction can be emphasized,” said the analyst.

For folks not interested in dropping thousands on an Apple headset, the IR cameras could offer other perks, including bringing “in-air” gestures to AirPods, per Kuo. The IR module could be similar to the receiver that powers Apple’s facial recognition feature, FaceID.

The analyst’s report follows an earlier story from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, which noted that Apple was looking into the idea camera-powered AirPods.

If Apple actually brings cameras to its buds, the move would fit a long-running trend for the tech giant. After turning its minimalistic white buds into status symbol in the iPod era, Apple has made them smarter over the years, adding features such as wireless connectivity, noise cancellation, head tracking, touch controls and voice commands.

There’s also been talk of AirPods with health-tracking features, but Apple hasn’t released such functionality to date. That may have been for the best; Amazfit, for example, fell flat when it built fitness tracking into its Powerbuds Pro back in 2021.

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