AirPods can monitor Respiratory Rate from breath audio — Apple and Cornell University report


A recent research study conducted by Cornell University and reported on arxiv website as well on the Machine Learning Section page of Apple’s website reports that the tech giant can estimate the Respiratory Rate (RR) from breath audio measured by its AirPods, according to MyHealthyApple. The RR is used to measure general health and fitness. As its mega September event looms, experts and Apple aficionados wonder if this health tracking feature will be a part of its new or existing AirPods.


This is exciting news not only in terms of fitness but also for general health purposes as it will help monitor disease progression as well cardio-respiratory fitness in a cost-effective way over a period of time.


The Borg Dyspnea Scale is used to measure breathlessness. It is used to measure the clinical severity of diseases associated with respiratory disorders. Those who suffer from such conditions require an interface with a health care provider, so that their symptoms can be recognized.


Using AirPods to measure RR has simplified the process as the researchers noted that “wearable headphones” could pick up inhalations and exhalations through their microphones. The researchers said that they estimated the RR using short segments that were obtained used microphone-enabled, near-field headphones. The researchers collected data from twenty-one healthy adults before, during and after vigorous exertions.


The research has thrown up unique information on RR for fitness as well as health monitoring activities.


  • It estimated RR from a wearable device microphone under natural, ambient indoor as well as outdoor conditions.
  • It utilized a model-driven approach that can estimate RR directly from filterbank energies.
  • It introduced situational awareness through multitask learning. This allowed the model to distinguish between high and low SNR conditions


Although the study mentioned Apple AirPods, it did not specify which model was used. It also remains to be seen if next gen Apple AirPods have more sensitive near field microphones to support the tracking of RR or whether the Apple Watch would be necessary to monitor RR as this point was not clarified.


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