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Two AirPods Related Patents Surface covering Binaural Audio Capture (Related to SMR) & Ultrasonic Proximity Sensors

1 X Cover duo AirPods patent applications


Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published two patent applications from Apple that relate to AirPods. The first relates to Binaural Audio which is associated with SMR which Apple promoted in a series of ads earlier this month. The second patent covers ultrasonic proximity sensors for AirPods that can sense when to stop audio when one AirPod is removed from the user's ear and more. Both inventions are in use in-part or in full today.   


#1: AirPods Patent

Binaural Audio Capture using Untethered Wireless Headset


Recording 360 degree audio or capturing audio as seen by both ears (binaural) allows recreating sounds as heard by the user. Binaural recording is intended for replay using headphones and will not translate properly over stereo speakers. This type of audio recording when played back with a video recording enhances the viewing experience.


Binaural recording of a sound scene uses two microphones, arranged with the intent to subsequently create a 3-D stereo sound sensation for the listener, as if the listener were actually present in the sound scene. This effect may be created, by placing a pair of microphones spaced apart by the average distance between a listener's ears and separated by a device that provides the acoustic effects of the listener's head. While this is often done using a mannequin head outfitted with a microphone in each ear, it is also possible to place microphones in or near a person's ears, to make the binaural recording.


Personal digital devices, such as smartphones, often include the ability to make video recordings. Such devices may also be used with wireless in-ear audio devices that include both speakers and microphones (e.g., earbuds) allowing the user to perform functions such as listening to music and making telephone calls.


The goal of Apple's invention is to provide a way to use wireless in-ear audio devices, such as wireless earbuds, to make binaural recordings.


An aspect of the invention is a wireless headset that includes first and second wireless earphone devices, each including a microphone. Each wireless earphone device is "untethered" in the sense that it transmits its microphone signal (to another device that is separate from, and outside, its earphone housing) via a wireless or over the air communication link.


The first earphone device assembles a first group of audio packets, each of which includes a first low-resolution clock value, a first high-resolution clock value, and a sequence of first microphone samples, and transmits the first group of audio packets to the second wireless earphone device; the latter is configured as master device of a first wireless network, while the former is configured as a slave device, of the first wireless network, that transmits the first group of audio packets. The second earphone device receives the first group of audio packets from the first wireless earphone device, assembles a second group of audio packets, each of which includes a second low-resolution clock value, a second high-resolution clock value, and a sequence of second microphone samples, and transmits the first and second groups of audio packets to an external device, while the latter is configured as a master device of a second wireless network.


Apple's patent FIG 1 below is a pictorial view of an illustrative user wearing a wireless headset and holding an external device; FIG. 2 is a simplified schematic diagram of an exemplary Bluetooth Protocol Stack.




Apple's patent FIG. 6 above illustrates an example of how a pair of left and right wireless earphones configured into their roles as device A and device B communicate their respective audio packets.


Binaural Audio Capture relates to SMR which Apple covered in a series of videos that we covered in a report on August 7th.



ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. So what does ASMR have to do with binaural audio? For that answer, read the report titled "ASMR and binaural audio recording."


Apple's patent application 20190261089 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was originally filed back in Q1 2018. By nature of Apple's SMR promo videos, this would be a patent fulfilled or a part of a series of patents on this technology.


Apple's Inventors


Hariharan; Sriram: Sr. iOS Wireless Software Architect

Paquier; Baptiste P.: Senior SW manager

Allamanche; Eric A.: Sr. Software Engineer, Manager, Audio Codec Group

Paycher; Alon: Engineer in Apple's Israel Office. He came to Apple via Texas Instruments as a Wireless Systems Architect


#2 AirPods Patent

Ultrasonic Proximity Sensors and Related Systems


Apple's second AirPods related patent application covers Ultrasonic Proximity Sensors and Related Systems. The sole inventor is Charles L. Greenlee that is an Engineer at Apple that is associated with the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences.  


The patent covers AirPods that can automatically detect whether or to what extent it is positioned in a user's ear and can enable any of a variety of functions in an associated device. For example, the earphone can communicate its status to a media player or other computing environment. When the status indicates the earphone is being worn, the media player or other computing environment can transmit, for example, an audio signal to the earphone and the earphone can decode and playback the audio signal for the user. When the status indicates the earphone is not being worn, the media player can stop transmitting the audio signal to the earphone and, by way of example, instead redirect the audio signal to another playback device, or altogether pause or stop media playback. As well, when an earphone detects that it is not being worn, the earphone can power down or enter a sleep state to preserve battery charge.


Apple's patent FIG. 3 schematically illustrates anatomy of a typical human ear; FIG. 4 schematically illustrates an in-ear earphone positioned in the human ear shown in FIG. 3; FIG. 5 illustrates a block diagram of a method to classify a local environment.


3 x ultrasonic figs. 3  4 & 5


Apple's patent application 20190261094 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was originally filed back in Q1 2019 with some work dating back to 2018.


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