Simple Software Turns Commercial Earphones Into Pulse-Detecting Devices

Simple Software Turns Commercial Earphones Into Pulse-Detecting Devices

Wearable technology that measures pulse in the vacuum created inside ear canals.

Serena Chu
  • 28 october 2013

Researchers found a way to measure pulse waves using regular, commercially-available earphones. This new technique makes it possible to check pulse without using any other medical instruments.

headphone 2

Researchers found the seal made by earphones provides the perfect condition to measure pulse because it blocks out any sound wave disturbances, which reduces the room for error. Using earphones’ speaker as a detection device, the technology picks up pressure changes in the ear canal and interprets the movement to determine the pulse rate. By analyzing the tiny movements of the eardrum, the new technology enables researchers to further explore the practicality of wearable technology.


No additional changes to existing earphones are required, because smartphones or mp3 can function as the signal processor, making it possible to check pulse while listening to music.

In addition to in-ear sensors, the Japanese researchers at Kaiteki Institute and Bifrostec created a ring-shaped pulse wave sensor. Similar in technique, the sensor detects pressure changes within the enclosed space made by wearing the ring. A MEMS microphone is equipped to pick up the changes.

Kaiteki Institute


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