What next for Ap­ple’s hard-to-get AirPods?

A newly pub­lished Ap­ple patent might point to AirPods’ fu­ture form

Mac|Life - - CONTENTS - BY Ed Rick­etts

Plus, Ap­ple gets the go‑ahead for 5G test­ing.

Even as Ap­ple’s AirPods con­tinue to suf­fer from stock short­ages – the es­ti­mated ship­ping time for a pair has only just dropped from six weeks to four – it may be that the com­pany is al­ready in the plan­ning stages of a new ver­sion.

A newly pub­lished patent ap­pli­ca­tion from Ap­ple de­scribes an “in-ear speaker hy­brid au­dio trans­parency sys­tem.” This would en­able the ear­phone wearer to se­lec­tively mute or am­plify am­bi­ent sounds while still lis­ten­ing to au­dio – with the added ben­e­fit of elim­i­nat­ing the some­what un­pleas­ant echoey ef­fect you ex­pe­ri­ence when speak­ing while wear­ing head­phones.

Head­phones with this so-called “au­dio passthrough” technology aren’t new, though at the mo­ment they’re gen­er­ally con­fined to the more ex­pen­sive end of the mar­ket. This is largely due to the com­plex­ity of adding both a mi­cro­phone and sound pro­cess­ing technology to fil­ter ex­ter­nal sound, which in turn

in­creases the power re­quire­ments of such head­phones.

Ap­ple’s patent takes a some­what dif­fer­ent ap­proach, how­ever. In­stead of the ear­piece be­ing com­pletely sealed and thus block­ing off the wearer’s ear canal en­tirely – which partly causes that echo­ing ef­fect as sound bounces around in the ear canal – its head­phones would in­cor­po­rate a phys­i­cal valve, driven by an ar­ma­ture, which could be opened or closed as needed.

Thus, if the user was speak­ing on the phone, the valve could be open in or­der to en­able sounds to “leak” from the ear canal; then, out on the street, it could be closed to elim­i­nate am­bi­ent noise.

The patent goes on to de­scribe how this process could be au­to­mated based on, for ex­am­ple, whether the Phone app is cur­rently ac­tive, or if mo­tion-sens­ing data in­di­cates the user is running – in which case it would be safer to have some am­bi­ent noise fil­ter­ing in. Such noise could, ac­cord­ing to the patent, be dig­i­tally al­tered and equal­ized, so that it sounds like the user is not wear­ing head­phones at all.

Of course, as with all technology pa­tents, the fact this one has been filed doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily in­di­cate a prod­uct will fol­low. In­ter­est­ingly, though, while the patent was only pub­lished in July this year, the orig­i­nal ap­pli­ca­tion was sub­mit­ted back in Jan­uary 2016 – so it’s fea­si­ble that devel­op­ment of a real prod­uct which uses the tech is fur­ther along than might first seem likely.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.