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Apple Invents an AirPods Charging Case with a Face Surface Touch UI that will add new controls + work with XR Headsets & TVs

1 cover AirPods Case with touch UI surface - controls used with XR Headset

Patently Apple posted an IP report back in March titled "Apple invents an AirPods Case with a frontside Touch Display allowing users to interact with apps for Music, Apple TV+, Maps & more." On Thursday, an International patent application filing surfaced supporting the same theme yet with additional features, including working Apple Vision Pro and/or other future XR headsets, TVs and more.

Apple notes that "there is a need to design devices, systems, and methods to increase the user input and control functionalities of wireless headphones and associated devices."

AirPods may include a capacitive touch sensor that registers a tapping or pressing of the earbud by the user’s hand/or finger. Various combinations of taps or touches of the earbuds themselves can cause the audio input to pause, increase or decrease in volume, turn on, turn off, or the like. However, this small form factor limits the available space, such as the surface area of the earbuds themselves, to include control input capabilities or other user interface features.

Advantageously, the user interface region of a charging case can be utilized by the user to input control commands for controlling the earbuds or the audio being transmitted thereto. Such a user interface region, located with the charging case of the earbuds, provides increased surface area or space, in place of or in addition to that of the earbuds themselves, to include sensors, buttons, or other interface components that expand user input capabilities, user interface outputs, and control functionalities.

Apple further notes at least some of the user interface regions of electronic charging devices and input devices can include one or more capacitive touch surfaces configured to receive gesture controls from the user.

For example, while wearing the earbuds and listening to audio content, a user can swipe a finger on the user interface region of the charging case in a certain direction, motion path, or for a certain duration, to indicate any number of controls to manipulate the audio being listened to through the earbuds. In one example, a user can swipe left or right to move back and forth from one track of audio to another.

In another example, a user can swipe a finger in a circular motion on the user interface region to indicate a volume change. The surface area provided by the user interface region s described herein can thus receive user touch gestures as command inputs to control audio content output by the earbuds. As used herein, the terms “gesture,” “contact gesture,” “touch gesture,” or other terms including “gesture,” can include any path, motion, or contact profile of the user’ s finger as it contacts the user interface region.

Gestures can include the direction, shape, duration, pressing force, or other contact characteristics between the user’s finger or hand and the user interface region. For example, gestures can include swipe paths in any direction, shapes such as circles, triangles, rectangles or other shapes, taps, hard or soft presses, or any combination thereof, as formed by the path of the finger along the region and as detected by the region.

Apple's patent FIG. 7 below illustrates the face surface of an AirPods Charging Case with a touch-based user interface and various control symbols; FIG. 15D AirPods with Spatial Audio; FIG. 16A/B illustrates how the AirPods Case UI will work with an XR Headset system (like Apple Vision Pro) to control audio and more.  

2 Apple AirPods Charging Case with touch UI

Apple also notes that the user interface on the AirPods charging case could be used with a television. Apple notes that if two or more people are watching and listening to a television program through their respective earbuds, each user can uniquely adapt the audio output to their needs.

For example, some users may need or want the volume to be louder or softer. Also for example, some users may prefer turning up the bass or treble components of the audio output. Advantageously, each user utilizing the devices described herein can change the audio output to meet their own needs without affecting the audio output transmitted to others.

Lastly, this can have unique and advantageous accessibility implications for providing altered or enhanced audio experiences to those with hearing impairments or other hearing disabilities.

To review this patent's details, review patent application WO2023245024 published on December 21, 2023.

10.51FX - Patent Application Bar

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