Hidden AI Features Available on Your Apple Watch Right Now


Apple only entered the public conversation about generative AI recently. It doesn’t currently use a buzzy chatbot like ChatGPT, but AI has long been working behind the scenes across the company’s most popular products, including the Apple Watch. 

When you get notifications on your Apple Watch — whether it’s a gentle reminder to breathe, a nudge to stand up or alerts about loud environments that could harm your hearing — these alerts are underpinned by AI algorithms and machine learning, processing data from built-in sensors. What you get is an Apple Watch that provides people with valuable insights into their health and fitness as well as wellness tips throughout the day.

Apple uses a multitude of sensors on the Watch, allowing it to gather data about an individual’s health. With this data, Apple trains its machine learning and AI models to then process that information in various ways to create the Apple Watch user experience. Remember that AI covers a multitude of implementations, from simple algorithms and machine learning to generative AI, which is behind services like ChatGPT and Dall-E.

Read more: Your iPhone’s Hidden AI Features

While Apple is rumored to bring a bevy of new generative AI features to the iPhone, fewer rumors are circulating about what innovations will be on the rumored Apple Watch X, which is due to mark ten years since the watch’s reveal in 2014. Only Apple knows what’s next for the Apple Watch and WatchOS. But you don’t have to wait until September to try AI out on your watch. Here are some of our favorite AI-based features on newer Apple Watches that are worth checking out right now.

Double tap

If you own an Apple Watch Series 9 or the Watch Ultra 2, chances are you’ve explored the Double Tap feature. Introduced last fall, this gesture allows you to interact with your Apple Watch without physically touching the screen. By simply tapping your index finger and thumb together twice, you can trigger various functions like answering or ending calls, snoozing alarms and even capturing photos.

The new S9 chip and machine learning detect subtle movements and changes in blood flow when people tap their fingers together. The watch then goes on to activate the relevant feature. To be fair, a similar gesture has been available on the Apple Watch 4 and newer, where it serves as an accessibility feature known as Assistive Touch.

Sleep tracking on the iPhone and Apple Watch

Sleep tracking gained sleep stages in WatchOS 9. Will that bring a wave of other health insights down the road?

Apple

Native sleep tracking

The Apple Watch employs AI algorithms to discern your movements and determine when you’re asleep (provided you’re wearing the smartwatch). Throughout the night, the Apple Watch gathers information from a mix of its sensors, including data on wrist movement and heart rate fluctuations, which is then processed by on-device machine learning algorithms. Their task? To analyze intricate patterns and distinguish between various sleep stages, including REM, Core and deep sleep, as well as wakefulness. AI plays a crucial role in interpreting these complex patterns and ensuring accurate classification.

fall detection feature on apple watch

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

Fall detection 

Apple Watch’s AI can recognize when a wearer suddenly falls and encourages a call to emergency services if required. The device determines whether a fall has taken place by taking factors such as impact force and wrist movement into account.

Apple Watch version 4 EKG heart health  apple-event-091218

The Apple Watch’s electrocardiogram feature.

James Martin/CNET

The Apple Watch relies on an accelerometer, which detects velocity, and a gyroscope, which detects the Earth’s gravity. With the help of AI algorithms, these tools can recognize a bad fall and activate a warning on the watch face asking if you want to call emergency services, among other fall detection responses. 

Irregular heartbeat detection

Another major health feature also leans on AI to function accurately. With the help of sensors, the Apple Watch can check your heart rhythms for irregularities or even atrial fibrillation, or AFib, a leading cause of strokes. The Apple Watch Series 6 and later can collect data from the electrical heart rate sensor and continuously analyze that information. If the AI detects irregularities consistent with AFib, for instance, it triggers an alert such as the Irregular Rhythm Notification Feature.

According to Apple, the Apple Watch’s irregular rhythm feature can check heart rhythms in the background and send a notification if an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be AFib is identified. Because AFib is often asymptomatic, many individuals with the condition may be unaware they have it. 

Siri on iOS 17

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Apple Watch going into the future

Apple has been investing heavily into the health and wellness category as it works to push the Apple Watch forward as a health tracker. With all the hype surrounding generative AI, we would expect future Apple Watches to bring more AI-powered tools relating to health and wellness.

Bloomberg report says Apple is developing an AI-based health coaching program that would use data collected by the smartwatch to provide people with more personalized advice on their health.

Editors’ note: CNET is using an AI engine to help create some stories. For more, see this post.

Watch this: What Google Gemini AI on the iPhone Could Look Like





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