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Apple invents Over-the-Ear Headphones that include Head-Tracking with Automatic Dynamic Re-Centering Operations

1 Cover Apple over-the-ear headphone patent for head tracking audio


Over the weekend Patently Apple discovered a German patent filing in the European database that was published last week. The patent revealed references back to a U.S granted patent dated April 30, 2019 that we missed. Considering that a future over-the-ear headphone accessory from Apple is likely due to market sometime in 2019-2020 (if rumors are correct), we wanted to ensure that this current invention was covered and filed in our Audio Related, HomePod & Speakers archive.


Apple's over-the-ear headphone patent covers a new added dimension to binaural headphones that achieves realistic virtual sound sources that will be effective when a user is jogging along a winding road or moving in a vehicle or flying in a plane. The new head-tracking system understands realtime motion and ensures that the audio automatically re-centers to keep the audio perfectly centered at all times for the user.


Apple notes that existing binaural headphones having head-tracking can achieve realistic virtual sound sources when the reference frame is not moving, like a room. That is, current binaural headphones assume that the virtual sound source is spatially anchored to a stationary reference frame, like a room, and thus movements of the head-tracker are attributed to the listener's head turning.


In Apple's future over-the-ear headphones, head-tracking systems may incorporate orientation sensors to allow an audio engine to predict an orientation of the binaural headphones relative to the reference frame, and thus, to simulate the virtual sound source in an appropriate direction as a listener's head turns.


Re-Centering Operations


Apple notes in their granted patent that sensor inputs to a binaural sound reproduction system (#300 headphones) may be classified into different use cases. In patent FIG. 1 below we're able to see a pictorial view of a user consuming audio or video content in a static use case; In FIG. 2 we see a pictorial view of a user consuming audio or video content in a dynamic use case; In FIG. 3 below we see a pictorial view of a binaural sound reproduction system.




More specifically Apple notes that in FIG. 2, there's a pictorial view of a user consuming audio or video content in a dynamic use case within a moving vehicle.  With Apple's invention, the audio in the user's headset will automatically re-center as a vehicle turns so that it's always centered for the user.


In another example, one may consider the case of a user watching a movie on an airplane. A user may watch the movie using binaural sound reproduction system (#300 Headphones).


As the user moves their head to gaze out the window next to them, the dialogue will continue to be perceived as coming from the forward facing direction of the iPad. One will appreciate that, if the airplane yaws, without the aid of a dynamic re-centering function, a head tracker would detect the rotation of the airplane as a turn of the user's head, and thus, the dialogue and the surround content would be rotated incorrectly.


An iPad using the new dynamic re-centering operations, the binaural sound reproduction system (headphones) may differentiate between the user's head motion and the frame of reference (airplane) movement, and may compensate to ensure that the dialogue and the surround content is correctly rendered.


Apple's patent FIGS. 15A to 15C below are pictorial views of a binaural sound reproduction system in a dynamic use case.


3 x Apple binaural headphones patent figs 15abc - Patently Apple IP Report


Apple's granted patent 10,278,003 was originally filed in Q1 2017 and published in Q2 2019 by the US Patent and Trademark Office.


Apple Inventors


Darius Satongar: Acoustics engineer. He previously worked at Dolby

Juha Merimaa: Audio Algorithm. He previously worked at Sennheiser. His specialties include.  Spatial audio algorithms, psychoacoustics, headphone and multichannel sound reproduction, microphone arrays, acoustic measurements, voice processing, audio for telephony, sound field analysis, some noise reduction methods.


Sylvain Choisel: Senior Audio Technologist


10.52FX - Granted Patent Bar

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