Apple has Won a Patent for a Multimodal Audio System for Future HMD and Smartglasses
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to wearable display devices and systems with multimodal audio components that are operable in a variety of selectable modes to allow for different user experiences.
Apple notes that display devices, such as wearable HMDs, for example, typically include both video and audio systems and components to create a more complete user experience. Flexibility in audio operation is often desirable in that it allows for use of the system in a variety of settings or environments.
For example, in the context of virtual reality (VR), a more immersive audio experience may be desirable (e.g., to block out or cancel external noise), whereas in the context of augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (MR), external noise may be of less import.
Additionally, in situations or settings where privacy is a concern, the ability to choose between an intra-aural experience and an extra-aural experience may be advantageous in that it gives the user options and greater control over system operation.
Apple’s granted patent addresses these concerns by providing a display system that allows the user to select between a variety of audio modes to customize their experience.
In one aspect, Apple's invention covers a head-mounted display system that facilitates image and/or video display; a user-wearable support that is connectable to (e.g., fixedly or removably supported by) the housing; and an audio component that is pivotably connected to the support such that the audio component is movable between first and second positions.
In the first position, the audio component is in general alignment with the support, and in the second position, the audio component is out of general alignment with the support.
Movement of the audio component between the first and second positions allows the user to vary operability of the head-mounted display system between a first mode (i.e., an extra-aural mode), in which sound is projected through a first port in communication with a driver to a user, and a second mode (i.e., an intra-aural mode), in which sound is projected through a second port in communication with the driver to the user.
In certain embodiments, the audio component may be extendable and retractable to allow for variation in an overall length of the audio component.
In certain embodiments, the audio component may include an earpiece that is positioned to receive sound through the second port. To reduce (or entirely cancel) external noise in the second mode, the earpiece may be configured for sealing engagement with the user's ear.
In certain embodiments, the earpiece may be configured or adapted to form a seal (either partially or entirely) with the user's ear. For example, the earpiece may include (e.g., may be formed from) a deformable foam. Additionally, or alternatively, the earpiece may be adapted for reconfiguration. For example, the earpiece may be expandable and contractible, such as by inflation and deflation.
In certain embodiments, the support may include a woofer that is separate from the audio component. The woofer can produce sound at a first power level in one of the first and second modes and at a second power level in the other of the first and second modes. The first power level is not equal to the second power level.
In certain embodiments, the audio component may include a telescoping section to allow for variation in a distance defined between the support and the earpiece.
In certain embodiments, moving the audio component between the first and second positions causes a visual system of the wearable display system to transition between a VR mode to an AR mode or an MR mode.
Apple's patent FIG 1 below embodiment of an audio component in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure shown in a first position during operation in a first mode (i.e., an extra-aural mode).
Apple's patent FIG. 5 above is a side, plan view of the wearable display system illustrating operation of the audio component in a hybrid mode that allows for both the intra-aural and extra-aural projection of sound; FIG. 8 is a side, plan view of the audio component shown in a second (elongated) configuration.
Apple's patent FIGS. 17 and 18 below are side, plan views of alternate embodiments of the wearable support for use with the audio component.
In Apple’s first granted patent their patent claims primarily focused on “A Display System. In Apple’s second granted patent, Apple has added 20 new patent claims that focus on “An Audio Component,” and more additions relating to a “Head-Mounted Display System.” For more details, review Apple's granted patent 11,366,325.
Rob Silfvast: Technology, Innovation, Product Development Leadership
Chris Eubank: Audio Engineering Manager
Neal Evans: Acoustic Design Engineer
Jeremy Franklin: Product Design Manager
James Vandyke: Product Design Engineer