Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Google research turns ANC earphones into health wearable

Earphones may well be for listening to sound, but a future pair you throw in your ears could be good for your health, too.

Getting the price of earphones down with noise cancellation for everyone may well be the latest trend in earphones, but it’s not the only idea happening.

In fact, researchers are working on a bunch of new ways to make earphones useful beyond simply relaying sound to your ears sans cords.

Over at Google, researchers have been experimenting with the idea of turning a pair of noise cancelling earphones into a health-sensing technology, effectively using the idea of noise cancellation as a form of heart rate checking.

It’s a crazy idea that might not be so crazy, and could one day turn a future pair of ANC earphones like the Google Pixel Buds Pro into something more useful, and provide cardiac monitoring simply by wearing a pair of earphones.

The concept comes from research into audioplethysmography, a really long word that’s a variation on photoplethysmography’s use of light to monitor changes in the blood. These days, PPG sensors (for short) are more or less what we use in health tracking gadgets today, and typically are one of the main sensors in an Apple Watch and other smartwatches, checking your heart rate by shining a light on your blood.

Slightly different, audioplethysmography would use a sound wave fired in the deep ear to track changes in the blood, measuring little signals with microphones to understand what the heart is doing.

The idea is detailed over at Google Research and seems like it’ll be a while off before it’s a feature Google talks about in the next pair of Google Pixel Buds, but it could even be something current models get if developers can work it out.

The researchers note that it could come to any truly wireless noise cancelling earphones with something as simple as a software upgrade, which may mean the idea is closer than we realise. Maybe.

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