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Apple’s AirPods are about to get much smarter with Adaptive Audio and Conversation Awareness

Apple’s AirPods are about to get much smarter with Adaptive Audio and Conversation Awareness


An upcoming software update will improve call quality even beyond what Apple’s existing Voice Isolation feature is capable of.

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Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro photographed on a reflective black surface.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Apple has made a habit of announcing new AirPods software features at its WWDC keynote. Two years ago, those included Conversation Boost and deeper Find My integration. A year before that, the company introduced spatial audio and automatic device switching. Today at WWDC 2023, the company announced several new enhancements, including Adaptive Audio, which intelligently blends noise cancellation and transparency passthrough based on your surroundings.

Adaptive Audio will appear as an additional option beside full active noise cancellation and transparency mode. When active, the AirPods Pro constantly analyze your environment and adjust ANC and transparency for the optimal listening experience.

A “conversation awareness” feature will automatically activate transparency mode and lower the volume of music when the AirPods detect speech — much like earbuds from Sony and other brands already do. Once you’ve stopped talking, your audio will return to normal.

Apple also demonstrated much better background noise reduction to prevent people on the other side of a call from hearing unwanted distractions. The WWDC AirPods segment featured a marching band surrounding a person wearing Apple’s second-gen AirPods Pro. To the person on the other side of that call, the band cacophony was barely perceptible.

Automatic device switching between Apple’s platforms — which can be frustratingly glitchy at times — should work faster and more reliably when using your AirPods, according to the WWDC presentation. These updates are due this fall alongside the release of iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and tvOS 17.

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Speaking of tvOS, Apple announced that FaceTime is coming to the TV screen (along with support for Continuity Camera). Zoom and WebEx will release apps for the platform. tvOS 17 also adds a Siri Remote locator function, redesigned Control Center, and more.

Some of these new AirPods voice features are similar in concept to Google’s Clear Calling. “Clear Calling uses machine learning to recognize, isolate, and eliminate distracting sounds like wind and traffic noise while enhancing your caller’s voice,” Google’s Brian Rakowski said during the company’s Pixel event last October. “So your friends can call you from anywhere, and you’ll be able to hear them just fine.” It’s been rumored that Clear Calling is headed to the Pixel Buds Pro in the not-too-distant future. 

Apple has gone down this path before with its impressive Voice Isolation feature, which expanded from FaceTime to support regular phone calls earlier this year. The new AirPods feature will build upon Apple’s learnings and try to take voice conversations to the next level.