Apple could put cameras inside your AirPods

Apple's future AirPods could have little cameras to see the world around you

Apple AirPods Pro 2 on an airplane
(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Whenever we think about the features we'd like to see in future versions of Apple's AirPods or AirPods Pro, we tend to imagine better battery life, improved ANC and so on. And it's fair to say that the one thing that never comes up is adding little cameras to our earbuds. But a new report suggests that Apple is experimenting with exactly that.

The report, by Mark Gurman at, says that Apple continues to imagine AirPods as part of its health and fitness offering as well as its music and Siri services. We've previously heard reports of Apple experimenting with various health sensors inside its earbuds, and now it's apparently considering the use of tiny, low resolution cameras too – not to take selfies of your ear canals but to monitor the world around you.

According to Gurman, the experiments are based on the idea of AirPods acting as a kind of screen-free set of smart glasses with audio rather than visual output. You'd still have AI and health sensors, but they'd be in your ears rather than in something you wear over your eyes. And integrated cameras would be part of that.

What would earbud camera sensors actually do?

Gurman says that the experiments, codenamed B798, started last year and involve Apple's engineers "figuring out how to fit low-resolution camera sensors into earbuds about the size of today’s AirPods." Gurman doesn’t say what that data is or what it might be used for, and I suspect that's because his sources don't know. However, he does suggest that "such cameras could theoretically be used to capture data that would be processed via AI and assist people in their daily routines." 

It's possible that the low-res sensors are low-res not because that's Apple's vision – no pun intended – but because better quality tech isn't small enough yet. With decent resolution camera sensors it's certainly possible that earbuds could be used for stereoscopic photography or for AR applications where real-world visuals are analysed for AI to provide useful contextual information. But such applications are many years away, and may not be possible or desirable. 

As with the rumoured Apple Smart Ring, Apple is clearly trying all kinds of ideas – and like the Vision Pro, which Apple was patenting back in 2007 at the same time as the original iPhone launched, many of them will take a very long time to become reality. And many more won't become real products at all.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).