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New AirPods with IR camera coming to enhance Spatial Audio in Apple Vision Pro

Future AirPods Pro will work better with Spatial Audio in the Apple Vision Pro headset

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple is planning to release AirPods with infra-red camera modules that detect when a user turns their head, and so automatically adjust Apple Vision Pro audio output to match.

Apple Vision Pro comes with built-in Audio Pods that provide very good audio output for casual listening. For anything more, you should use AirPods and according to Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is working on making those work better with the Apple Vision Pro.

In his full blog post, Kuo says this information comes from his latest supply chain survey. By 2026, Apple's AirPods range will include at least one that has an infra-red (IR) camera, he says.

It will detect when the user's environment changes, typically because they have moved their head. Kuo says this means that the AirPods will be able to relay direction to the Apple Vision Pro, which will then adjust the balance of any playing Spatial Audio.

Specifically, he says that if a user turns their head to look at a certain direction, the Apple Vision Pro can know to emphasize the audio related to what they're looking at.

Since the idea is that this works by an IR camera registering that there has been a change in environment, though, there is the possibility for more. While this is not part of the supply chain report, Kuo believes that users could potentially control their AirPods with gestures.

Kuo says that Foxconn is the new-product introduction (NPI) supplier, meaning Apple has developed these AirPods with the company's involvement. It will then be the first manufacturer to produce the new AirPods, and Kuo says that he believes there will be production capacity for up to 10 million AirPods.

Apple does not have regular release dates for AirPods, but it does for the iPhone. Recent rumors have suggested that Apple will unveil new AirPods around September 2024's iPhone launch, though they will not have the new IR camera system.