AirPods with IR cameras are rumored to be on the way – but we'll have to wait a while for them

AirPods Pro 2 in action
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 (Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple is rumored to be planning to add a new model to its line-up of the best AirPods: specifically, AirPods with infrared cameras installed, which can be paired with a Vision Pro headset and create a spatial audio experience that changes as you move your head.

This comes from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is right more often than not when it comes to Apple predictions. However, the IR-enabled AirPods aren't going to be available anytime soon, with mass production said to start in 2026.

It's worth noting that back in February, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman also reported that AirPods with cameras were being looked at by Apple. That's two good sources to back up this rumor, though of course Apple's plans can always change.

The camera system inside the AirPods will be similar to the tech used for Face ID on the iPhone, according to Kuo. They would be enough to detect when someone is turning their head – so certain sounds could be increased or decreased accordingly. If you're in a virtual 3D environment, that kind of audio trickery can be very effective.

What the future might hold

Apple Vision Pro headset

The Apple Vision Pro (Image credit: Apple)

Something else that the cameras might be able to detect are hand gestures, Kuo says. Gestures can already be used for actions inside the Vision Pro, but as our Apple Vision Pro review makes clear, there's absolutely room for improvement in this area.

While sales of the Vision Pro don't seem to have been particularly significant, Apple is said to be pressing ahead with a cheaper model – which coincidentally (or not?) is also said to be arriving on the consumer market at some point 2026.

When iOS 16 arrived in 2022 it brought with it a Personalized Spatial Audio feature for the AirPods, which worked with the help of an iPhone for the 3D scanning. These immersive experiences would seem to be something Apple is particularly interested in.

No doubt we'll hear more rumors and leaks about AirPods with cameras in the months ahead. In the meantime, the standard AirPods models are also supposed to be being refreshed this year or next, so we can apparently look forward to the 4th-gen standard AirPods and the Apple AirPods Pro 3 in the not-too-distant future.

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David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.