A newly published patent application offers another hint at what kind of biometric technology Apple is exploring for future versions of wearable devices like the company’s AirPod earbuds.
As Patently Apple explains, this latest patent concerns “self-mixing interferometry” sensors. Essentially, the idea is to emit a beam of light at a given spot, and to scan the reflections and backscatters of that light, enabling the sensor to detect changes in distance, displacement, velocity, and other such metrics.
The patent details how sensors embedded in AirPods – or other wearables like head-mounted displays, for that matter – can flash these lights onto the user’s head, and see how actions like speaking, or even silently forming a word, change the user’s skin surface. Patterns in these changes could then be used for biometric authentication.
In other words, the system would enable a kind of voice recognition – without needing the user to utter a sound.
The patent application, published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, comes after previous filings concerning other means of biometric authentication on Apple’s AirPods, including those leveraging electrocardiogram and impedance cardiography sensors.
Apple files patents covering all kinds of technologies, many of which don’t actually end up in commercial devices. But even if the company’s IP filings aren’t evidence of what kinds of products the company actually has in development, they can offer tantalizing hints about the kinds of areas that Apple’s engineering teams are exploring. And as this latest patent application helps to make clear, Apple is very interested in implementing biometric authentication technology in a future version of its AirPods – in one form or another.
Source: Patently Apple