There are times when you want to listen to your music with just one earbud so that you could also hear what's happening around you. You may be a passenger in a car or bus, be at work or just taking a walk. If you do that today, you'd lose the quality of sound which is in stereo. Apple has now designed a way for you to switch to monophonic mode on your media player so that you could receive superior sound when only using a single earbud. The advantage of the system is that it also allows you to share your headset with your significant other while walking. Each earbud will be set to monophonic sound with a simple click. So finally a couple could be in-tune with their music and be able to share and listen to new tunes at the same time.
The Playback Circuit: Apple's patent FIG. 2 shows a block diagram of circuits that may be included in an Apple media player. An audio program circuit (34) provides the source material to be delivered to the listener. A playback circuit (32) is coupled to the audio program circuit. The playback circuit is coupled to the audio headset. The playback circuit provides one of a stereophonic program or a monaural program to the audio headset by processing the source material provided by the audio program circuit. The playback circuit may be coupled to the audio headset by wires where a first pair of wires 36, 38 delivers a portion of the audio program to one of the two earpieces and a second pair of wires 40, 38 delivers another portion of the audio program to the other of the two earpieces. One wire 38 of the first and second pairs of wires may be a common connection to the playback circuit.
The Mode Control: The mode control (50) may use any of a variety of means for detecting if an earpiece is adjacent the listener's ear, such as impedance detection, touch sensing, proximity sensing, pressure sensing, etc. In other embodiments, the mode control may detect "touch" by a change in an electrical parameter, such a capacitance or resistance, that varies when the earpiece is adjacent the listener's ear due to the capacitance effect of the listener or resistance of the listener's skin. The mode control may sense proximity where an earpiece is close to, but not touching, the listener's ear. Alternatively, the electrical parameter may be a resistance of a conductive rubber or foam pad on the earpiece where the resistance changes as the pad is compressed when the earpiece is adjacent the listener's ear.
The mode control circuit causes the playback circuit to deliver the monaural program to the audio headset when at least one of the two earpieces is not adjacent a listener's ear. The playback circuit may provide the monaural program to the audio headset by mixing channels of the stereophonic program provided by the audio program circuit. When the mode control circuit detects that both of the two ear pieces are adjacent the listener's ears, it causes the playback circuit to deliver the stereophonic program to the audio headset.
The mode control circuit may be coupled to a visual display (46) on an iPod. As shown in FIG. 3, the mode control circuit may provide a user selection on the visual display to continue delivering the monaural program to the audio headset even if the mode control detects that both of the two earpieces are adjacent the listener's ears, the mode control providing the user selection when at least one of the two earpieces is not adjacent a listener's ear. Thus the listener may elect to have the audio player continue delivering the monaural program to the audio headset regardless of positions of the two earpieces with respect to the listener's ears after the delivery of the monaural program is initiated by removing at least one of the two earpieces. This may be advantageous if the listener anticipates the need to frequently remove an earpiece to listen with only one ear or if the listener wishes to share the second earpiece with a second listener.
Apple credits Shaohai Chen, Phillip Tamchina and Jae Lee as the inventors of patent application 20100183175, originally filed in Q1 2009.
Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
In October 2009 we posted a report titled "Apple Prepares to Rock the Market with Hardware Subsidizing System." The response to Apple's patent was met with thunderous commotion. Today, a second patent with the same title (Advertisement in Operating System), with the same patent figures was published under patent number 20100185674. The subtle changes presented in this patent aren't worth covering in a new report but those of you who are into conspiracy theories may want to scour it for hidden secrets (Ha!).
A 2006 Apple TV related patent titled "Rendering Icons along a Multidimensional Path Having a Terminus Position" was republished this morning. The patent covers the already known Apple TV interface. For more information, see Continuation Patent 20100185982 or see Apple's granted patent on this very subject which was published in June 2010. Another related granted patent was issued at the end of June 2010 that relates to Apple TV content menu.
If you want to know all about Apple's already established Instant Messaging System, you could check out patent 20100185960. Apple must have slightly tweaked the system because the original filing date is only March 17, 2010.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for further details. For additional information on any patent reviewed here today, simply feed the individual patent number(s) noted in this report into this search engine. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
The verdict is in: Those are some freaky heads! When working on this report yesterday, I thought to myself - are these crazy heads or what? It was hard to look at them, let alone laugh. I even made sure that Patently Apple's Homepage wouldn't open to those freaky faces so I posted it to be positioned second. I thought that I may be alone on that call, but apparently not. Ha!
9 to 5 Mac: "Apple patents sharing earphones with freaky heads."
AppAdvice: "Super Freaky Faces Feature In Apple's Earphone Patent."
Cult of Mac: "Apple Patent for Shareable iPod Earbud Mode Illustrated with Freakish Disembodied Heads."
Denmark's iPhoneguide describes the freaky heads in terms of it being a psychedelic insignia. Though the translation didn't quite deliver on that one - we get the message anyways - Ha!
To Apple: Thanks for the laugh.