Apple has filed a patent application titled “Headphone User Identification,” describing a system to identify AirPods users and limit sharing of personal data with unauthorized wearers. This comes as AirPods grow in popularity and gain features like hands-free access to Siri for tasks like reading text messages aloud.
Motion Sensing Technology Compares Data Across Devices
The patent filing details a process where motion data is gathered from AirPods, Apple Watch, and iPhone and then compared to determine if the owner is using the devices. Specifically, the headphones would detect head bobbing, the watch would sense finger snapping, and the phone would emit ultrasonic sound.
By matching up this motion and audio data across the three devices, Apple could ascertain with high probability that the owner is wearing the AirPods. If motion similarities are not detected, indicating the AirPods may have been borrowed or stolen, personal data like messages would not be shared through Siri.
This technique provides auditory identification comparable to retinal or fingerprint scans used in other authentication systems. It leverages the existing motion sensors in Apple devices that people wear together daily.
The patent aims to keep personal data and interactions with Siri private if AirPods are in another person’s possession. For example, it could prevent an embarrassing text message from being read aloud to a coworker who borrowed AirPods.