In iOS and iPadOS 14, Apple added spatial audio which is now available for Apple TV, Macs and HomePod. Now a new patent application reveals that Apple is developing spatial audio for FaceTime that could be on its way in the not-too-distant future. In fact, Apple introduced the basics of this technology during their 2021 WWDC Keynote. That brief segment of the keynote is presented in the video below. The patent further touches on spatial audio coming to Apple's future mixed reality headset in the future.
Last Thursday, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to audio output systems, including but not limited to systems for spatializing audio, output by audio output devices, associated with participants during a communication session / FaceTime, optionally, displaying video-conferencing user interfaces on one or more display devices, with one or more input devices.
Apple states in their patent application that there's a need for audio output devices (iPhone, iPad, Macs) and in some embodiments associated electronic devices with improved methods and interfaces for spatializing audio during communication sessions and communication session that include a visual component (e.g., a video call/FaceTime).
Such methods and interfaces optionally complement or replace conventional methods for stereo and mono audio output modes in communication sessions / FaceTime. Such methods and interfaces reduce the number, extent, and/or nature of the inputs from a user and produce a more efficient human-machine interface.
Apple's patent FIG. 11S below illustrates a user accessing a settings user interface while executing a video call application / FaceTime. The graphic element #1175 shows "Video Call: Requires Spatial Audio;" FIG. 5B visually illustrates how audio is perceived by a user (#501) of the device (#100) when the spatialized audio feature is enabled; and FIG. 10J illustrates a simulated spatial audio location map showing participants in the FaceTime call will be heard distinctly in different spatial audio areas.
Apple's patent application number 20220103963 is deeply detailed with over a hundred patent figures to explore here. In some ways, this is a patent fulfilled. Yet engineers may still appreciate the detailing behind this invention.
Two Other Spatial Audio Patents
Last week two additional patent application were published relating to spatial audio as noted below:
Patent Application 20220103965 titled "Adaptive Audio Centering for Head Tracking in Spatial Audio Applications"
Patent Abstract: Apple's patent covers adaptive audio centering for head tracking in spatial audio applications. In an embodiment, a method comprises: obtaining first motion data from an auxiliary device communicatively coupled to a source device, the source device configured to provide spatial audio content and the auxiliary device configured to playback the spatial audio content; obtaining second motion data from one or more motion sensors of the source device; determining whether the source device and auxiliary device are in a period of mutual quiescence based on the first and second motion data; in accordance with determining that the source device and the auxiliary device are in a period of mutual quiescence, re-centering the spatial audio in a three-dimensional virtual auditory space; and rendering the 3D virtual auditory space for playback on the auxiliary device.
Patent Application 20220103964 titled "Disabling/Re-Enabling Head Tracking for Distracted User of Spatial Audio Application"
Patent Abstract: Apple's patent covers disabling/re-enabling head tracking for spatial audio applications. In an embodiment, a method comprises: obtaining, using one or more processors of an auxiliary device worn by a user, motion data; tracking, using the one or more processors, the user's head based at least in part on the motion data; determining, using the one or more processors, whether or not the user is walking based at least in part on the motion data; in accordance with determining that the user is walking, determining if a source device configured to deliver spatial audio to the auxiliary device is static for a specified period of time; and in accordance with determining that the user is walking and the source device is static for the specified period of time, disabling the head tracking.