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Apple Invents a Virtual Acoustic Stereo System that Could Apply to a Home Theater, TV, Gaming System & Beyond



Apple's audio team has been busy lately with several patents surfacing. Patently Apple posted a report over the weekend about an advanced multi-speaker audio system designed for TV and live-streaming and yesterday we posted a report titled "Apple Granted a Patent for an Audio System that Reproduces a Stabilized 'Phantom Center' Audio Channel" A report that we covered in July described spatial awareness associated with Apple's new HomePod. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a system and method for generating a virtual acoustic stereo system by converting a set of left-right stereo signals to a set of mid-side stereo signals and processing only the side-components. This in turn creates the illusion that sound is emanating from a direction which there is no real sound source or speaker.


Specifically, Apple notes in their filing that "The objective of the virtual acoustic sound sources #111 (shown below) is to create the illusion that sound is emanating from a direction which there is no real sound source (e.g., a loudspeaker #105). One example application might be stereo widening where two closely spaced loudspeakers are too close together to give a good stereo rendering of sound program content (e.g., music or movies). For example, two loudspeakers may be located within a compact audio source #103 such as a telephone or tablet computing device as shown in FIG. 3 below.


In this scenario, the rendering strategy unit #209 may attempt to make the sound emanating from these fixed integrated loudspeakers to appear to come from a sound stage that is wider than the actual separation between the left and right loudspeakers. In particular, the sound delivered from the loudspeakers may appear to emanate from the virtual sound sources #111, which are placed wider than the loudspeakers integrated and fixed within the audio source.

2AF X99

Apple notes that the audio source #103 may be any electronic device that is capable of transmitting audio content to the loudspeakers such that the loudspeakers may output sound into the listening area #101. For example, the audio source may be a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a tablet computer, a home theater receiver, a television, a set-top box, a personal video player, a DVD player, a Blu-ray player, a gaming system, and/or a mobile device. Interestingly Apple recently updated their logo to cover gaming hardware.



Apple's patent FIG. 4 shows the interaction of sound from a set of loudspeakers at the ears of a listener.


Apple's patent application 20170230772 was filed back in March 2017. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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