Bose’s Quiet comfort earbuds perform very well when it comes to overall sound quality and active noise cancellation features. The company’s noise-canceling quiet comfort series was once the most popular headphones out there.
It appears that BOSE is now researching avenues to expand into the area of health monitoring and detection via headphones when it comes to designing its next-gen hearables.
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New hearable patents for Bose for health monitoring point towards a new feature for our headphones and ear-based wearables
This research came to light based on a new patent that was approved on Oct 22nd. The patent, US20200330017, was filed in April 2019 suggesting that this is a new development in their R&D department.
Bose’s research team is predominantly looking at how its hearables can be used for fatigue and drowsiness detection in users.
Monitoring fatigue is vital for long term health and safety
Monitoring a subject’s level of fatigue is a significant consideration in certain fields including the aviation, automotive, and military settings.
Subjects may work long shifts and perform repetitive or monotonous tasks.
Conventional approaches for monitoring a subject’s level of fatigue rely on a camera to continuously track eyes under field conditions.
Aside from the low sampling rate, tracking the eyes continuously under field conditions is challenging for camera systems.
Additionally, it is challenging for camera systems to distinguish between overlong eyelid closures and facial expressions or head turns where the subject’s eyes are not trackable.
How Bose’s hearable tech is different
Bose’s proposal to address this issue is via using a headphone design featuring electrodes that contact with the skin and can aid in collecting any combination of EMG, EOG, ECG/EKG.
The patent also explores using electrodes with Smart glasses to conduct health monitoring.
The system is configured to determine if the subject is fatigued, attentive, anxious, or stressed. The system determines the subject’s state without the use of a camera.
The thinking is that by positioning appropriate electrodes and sensors on the headphone or smart glasses, the built-in processor will be able to interpret electromyogram (EMG) signals.
The EMG signal is a biomedical signal that measures electrical currents generated in muscles during its contraction representing neuromuscular activities.
The nervous system always controls muscle activity (contraction/relaxation). The level of fatigue or drowsiness is then determined based on the duration and frequency of eye blinking.
Hearables to include built-in health sensors, like current wrist-based wearables
The approved patent also examines the feasibility of using embedded sensors in these hearables to track electrooculogram signals (tracking pupil movement).
Since these electrodes on the hearables contact the user’s skin, they can also be used with the determination of ECG, heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), and other parameters that can be used with algorithms to determine the level of stress
Bose isn’t alone in exploring the health potential of hearables
Bose is not the only company exploring ways to take hearables into the health and wellness space. Apple has several patents that explore embedding biosensors on AirPods to track vital signals.
As health wearables involve and remote health monitoring and personalized chronic disease management features begin to take shape over the next few years, we will see more product offerings that integrate health and wellness monitoring into hearables.