On January 6, 2010, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals one of the next chapters for Apple's iPad. The patent introduces us to three and four speaker arrays that will advance the iPad's audio range so as to cover high range tweeter and a lower range speaker. But the patent packs a bigger punch by illustrating the iPad's camera that will include facial and location orientation. So if you're chatting in landscape or portrait, the camera will reorient itself accordingly. The patent also shows us that Apple is thinking of a very cool iPad stand. It's a concept, but one that would be very, very cool to own.
People generally have a well-developed ability to localize the position of a sound source based on the differences in the way the sound is heard by their two ears. In sound reproduction sound may be recorded in two or more channels of audio material and routed to multiple speakers to provide sound cues that allow the listener to localize the apparent position of the recorded sound in much the same way as the original source could be localized. It is necessary for the listener to be located correctly with respect to the speakers for the spatial position information in the sound reproduction to be perceptible to the listener and permit localization of sound sources in the sound as reproduced by the speakers. Similar considerations apply to synthesized audio material that may be routed to multiple speakers to provide an illusion of localized sound sources.
Audio devices that move with respect to the listener create a challenge for the reproduction of multichannel audio using multiple speakers because the spatial relationship between the listener and the speakers can change and interfere with the listener's perception of the spatial position information. It would be desirable to provide an audio device with multiple speakers that can reproduce multichannel audio material in a way that makes the spatial position information perceptible to the listener while allowing the audio device to move with respect to the listener.
The Key is the Orientation Sensor
An orientation sensor detects an orientation of the speaker array and provides an orientation signal. An audio receiver receives a number of audio signals that include spatial position information. An audio processor is coupled to the speakers, the orientation sensor, and the audio receiver. The audio processor receives the audio signals and the orientation signal, and selectively routes the audio signals to the speakers according to the spatial position information and the orientation signal such that the spatial position information is perceptible to a listener. The orientation signal may be provided by a compass, an accelerometer, an inertial sensor, or other device. The orientation signal may be provided according to selection of display orientation, shape of touch input, image recognition of the listener, or the like.
A Three + Speaker Array
Apple's invention revolves around a device that provides an audio output which includes a speaker array mechanically fixed to the device as shown. The speaker array includes at least three speakers in a non-collinear arrangement.
New iPad Stand?
Interestingly, the design below could also be confirming that Apple is still working on a revolutionary iPad Stand that would work with a magnetic backing. The concept was first introduced in our May 2010 report. This patent doesn't mention a desktop, and the speaker array designs match those of the iPad-like device. Hence, we're definitely looking at an iPad stand concept.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a simplified view of a device (100) to provide an audio output. The device includes a speaker array that is mechanically fixed to the device. In the exemplary device shown, the speaker array includes three speakers (108, 109 and 110) spaced apart in a non-collinear arrangement to produce the audio output. Each of the speakers may be substantially at the vertices of a polygon having a number of sides equal to the number of speakers in the speaker array. In other embodiments the speaker array may have more than three speakers in a variety of non-collinear arrangements. The term "speaker" may include a closely grouped cluster of speakers that work cooperatively to create an audible sound from an audio channel signal.
The device further includes an orientation sensor (106). The orientation sensor detects an orientation of the speaker array and provides an orientation signal. The orientation sensor may be a compass that is mechanically fixed to the device such that there is no relative movement between the compass mounting and the speaker array. In another embodiment, the orientation sensor may be an accelerometer that is mechanically fixed to the device such that there is no relative movement between the accelerometer mounting and the speaker array. In yet another embodiment, the orientation sensor may be an inertial sensor, such as a gyroscopic type sensor, that is mechanically supported by the device such that there is no relative movement between the inertial sensor mounting and the speaker array.
In Apple's FIG. 3 shown above we see an alternative speaker array that includes 4 speakers (208, 209, 210 and 211) located substantially at the vertices of a rectangle. As suggested by the two circles shown for each speaker, each speaker is a closely grouped cluster of speakers, such as a high range "tweeter" and a lower range speaker, that work cooperatively to create an audible sound from an audio channel signal.
Quad Speakers + Camera with Facial and Location Recognition
Apple's patent FIG. 12 shows us an iPad-like device with quad speakers, FaceTime camera and an orientation sensor. In our January 20, 2010 report titled "Apple: The Tablet Prophecies – Part 2," we first showed you Apple's concept of quad speakers with 3D surround sound. Today's patent advances that concept.
Apple's patent also states that the orientation sensor may include a camera (128) that is mechanically fixed to the device and an image recognition processor coupled to the camera. The orientation signal may provide the orientation of the device relative to a user as detected by the image recognition processor. The orientation signal may be provided according to a location of the listener in the image or according to recognition of facial features of the listener in the image.
As another example, the graphical user input device may receive a touch input (126) from the listener, and provide the orientation signal according to a shape of the touch input, wherein the shape may reflect the orientation of the listener's finger or the motion of the finger from which the orientation of the user in relation the display may be deduced.
In September 2010 we presented a report titled "Official iPad Design Surfaces with only a Single Front Side Camera" which caused a stir in the community with many arguing that the "camera" was only a sensor. Today's patent makes it crystal clear that Apple intends to include such a camera.
Apple credits Heiko Panther, David Julian and Roberto Yepez as the inventors of patent application 20110002487, originally filed in Q3 2009.
Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
Automatic Speech Recognition: Apple's Jerome Bellegarda is Apple's main engineer on all things regarding speech recognition. In a patent published today under patent 20110004475, Bellegarda takes us deep down the rabbit hole into his world of "automatic speech recognition" technnology. Today's patent focuses on this technology as it pertains to Apple's iPhone in business. The patent states that "in many applications such as automated dictation or computer data entry, it may be critical that the resulting message represent a verbatim transcription of a sequence of spoken words."
Scheduling Media Playback: In September 2010 we posted a report titled "Apple Wants you to Get Down and P-a-r-t-y with Social iTunes." Today, another patent on this subject came to light with a twist. In patent 20110004330, Apple's iPod mechanical engineer Fletcher RothKopf and team introduces us to scheduling media playback. The patent covers all of Apple's devices including the iMac and Apple TV by inference. One of the applications described covers the ability to watch two videos at one time or record one while watching another. That's where the patent makes sense and would support another feature for Apple TV, should Apple advance this hobby of theirs. The feature noted above is hidden in all the noise about music and books. Though these applications are interesting, it's the application regarding video that appears to be the key gem. This fits nicely into this week's granted patent about an Advanced Apple TV.
Security Patent: Apple states that content data processing, such as video decoding, usually requires sophisticated processing cycles on uncontrolled raw content. With the proliferation of security attacks, more and more malicious data (or codes) are embedded inside raw content from third party sources, such as openy available internet websites. Apple's patent 20110004737 presents a solution to this outlined problem. It includes methods and apparatuses that perform protected content data processing with limited access to system resources. The patent covers Apple's Core Media, and API's relating to QuickTime and QTKit.
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