On October 4, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a rather inventive new headset that provides users with a temporary wireless option that's great for when you're working out in the gym or jogging.
Apple's Patent Background
Personal media players have become ubiquitous in that they could provide an end user with a great amount of multimedia information wherever and whenever desired. One of the great advantages to the end user of the personal media player is that the personal media player could be carried about for use in any number of different venues at any time while the end user engages in various physical activities. A signal wire in the form of a cord is generally used to transmit an audio signal from the personal media player to a wearable listening device, such as an ear bud. Cords transmit the audio signal more effectively, require less power, are inexpensive and are simpler to implement than wireless transmission techniques.
However, as simple and efficient as the cord may be in transmitting the audio signal, the cord is susceptible to becoming entangled while the end user is participating in physical activity. This is particularly nettlesome since the cord connected to the personal media player used while exercising or worn on the body requires frequent adjustment to avoid entanglement which could prove distracting or in some cases present a hazard to the end user.
Therefore, what's desired are improved techniques for listening to audio on a media player when a user is engaged in physically activity.
Earphones with Detachable Connector Providing Wireless Connectivity
Broadly speaking, Apple's invention describes at least a media apparatus that provides an end user of a personal media player a pleasurable listening and unencumbered experience during physical activity.
The portable communication device described in Apple's invention could be equipped to carry out various multimedia and other types of personal communication functions. In one embodiment, the portable communication device could take the form of an iPod nano but could take on other forms such as an iPhone or iPod touch.
The listening device could include a single listening a single or double component such as an ear bud(s) that could be detachably coupled to a corded portion by way of a detachable connector. The detachable connector could take many forms. For example, the detachable connector could be mechanical nature and rely upon a clip, fastener, and the like to secure the listening device to the corded portion.
In another embodiment, the detachable connector could be magnetic in nature. For example, the detachable connector could include a first part coupled to the listening device having at least a first magnetic element that exhibits a first magnetic polarity (i.e., either North magnetic polarity or South magnetic polarity).
The detachable connector could also include a second part coupled to the corded portion having at least a second magnetic element that exhibits a second magnetic polarity opposite that of the first magnetic polarity. In this way, when the first and second parts are in proximity to each other, a net attractive magnetic force can be generated that could cause the first and second parts to magnetically attach to each other. In addition to the first and the second magnetic elements, the first and second parts could also include electrical contacts that could be used to create a conductive path between the first and second parts when the first and second parts are magnetically attached to each other. In this way, power and/or an audio signal could be passed from the host device to the listening device by way of the corded portion without interruption.
Apple's patent FIG. 3A noted above is a side view of a representative embodiment of detachable connector 400 showing the relative positions of first part 402 and second part 404. Patent FIG. 3B shows a cross sectional view of magnetic detachable connector 700; patent FIG. 2 shows a single-bud headset system in a detached state; and finally, patent FIG. 5 shows the multi-channel headset in an unattached configuration.
In another embodiment, the first part and the second part could include a wireless receiver and a wireless transmitter portion, respectively, that facilitates the establishment of a wireless communication channel between the listening device and the host device by way of the corded portion when the first and second parts are physically separate from each other. For example, when the host device is Bluetooth enabled, the host device and the listening device could identify each other according to the well-known BT pairing procedure. Once paired, the host device could retain a BT address associated with the listening device. It should be noted that in those cases where the listening device includes two listening components capable of projecting Left and Right audio channels in support of two channel stereo, then each listening component could have its own BT address associated therewith.
Once the pairing process between the host device and the listening device and the components associated therewith is completed, the host device could provide an appropriate wireless signal that can be received, recognized, and appropriately processed by the listening device and in particular the listening component(s).
Designed for 30-60 Minute Workouts or Timespans
Accordingly, when the host device detects that the first and second parts of the detachable connector are physically separated from each other, the host device could immediately activate a wireless module incorporated within the host device and begin wirelessly transmitting an appropriately conditioned audio signal to the listening device. It should be noted, however, that since the first and second parts of the detachable connector are now physically separate from each other, the listening device can't receive power from the host device in any form. Therefore, the length of time that the listening device could wirelessly receive and process the wirelessly transmitted audio signal could be quite limited (on the order of about 30 minutes to about 60 minutes).
In order to receive power, the listening device could be re-connected to the host device using the detachable connector. Once the host device detects that the listening device is physically connected to the host device by way of the corded portion, the host device could immediately disable the wireless module and commence sending the audio signal in a wired manner by way of the corded portion.
Apple's patent FIG. 6A illustrates an arrangement whereby a media player could operate in a wireless mode. In this arrangement, media player could be placed in any location that the end user finds convenient. For example, as shown in FIG. 6B, corded portion 300 could be wrapped about the portable media player and placed in an inconspicuous location such as a pocket. In this way, the corded portion still retains the ability to receive an RF signal as well as wirelessly provide an audio signal to the headset. Accordingly, by placing the corded portion in a pocket, the chance that corded portion will become entangled during physical activity is practically non-existent.
In one aspect of the described embodiment, the corded portion acts as an RF antenna arranged to receive an RF signal transmitted from an external RF transmitter and passes the received RF signal to the host device for processing. Furthermore, when the host device is receiving power from an external power supply, the corded portion passes power directly from the host device to the listening device by way of the detachable connector.
Apple's patent application 20120250914 was originally filed in Q1 2011 by the sole inventor Jorge. For more details, see patent 20120250914.
Continuation Patents & More
In addition to our original patent application report noted above, the US Patent and Trademark Office has published a series of older continuation patents dating back to between 2005 and 2011. The continuation patents that we list below are specifically referenced as such under the section titled "Cross-Reference to Related Applications." Generally speaking, continuation patents represent tweaks made to patent claims in an effort to get the patents granted by the USPTO and don't represent any noteworthy new development from the original patent filing. Here are today's continuation patents should you wish to review them:
An Old 2008 Patent Application: Tactile Feedback in an Electronic Device
An Old 2005 Patent Application: Image Capture Using Display Device as Light
A 2011 Patent Application: Interleaving Charge Pumps for Programmable
Additionally, certain patent applications have come to light that slightly expand upon previous applications but not enough to warrant a separate report. Our April 2012 report regarding Surround Sound covers a new audio transducer. Today's patent application 20120250928 covers a few more details on the mechanics of the transducer.
Another patent application published this morning titled "Interactive menu elements in a virtual three-dimensional space," covers the very same content as found in our April 2012 report titled "Apple Reveals New Whiz-Bang No-Code Content Authoring Tool." Apple's patent application can be reviewed under 20120254791. Below is one of the new elements worth noting in this patent: The Slidable Menu
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