Apple Patent reveals a new Audio System designed for their Entry Level Visual Headset that can use AirPods
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a simplistic Apple headset and its various modes of audio, working with Siri and more. Apple's patents have shown us over time that they have a family of head mounted display systems in the works from a high-end Mixed Reality headset, to smartglasses and an entry level unit that works with a future iPhone inserted into an HMD (Head Mounted Display) frame. For years Apple used the graphic as noted below. They've decided to modernize the visual as noted in our cover graphic.
Apple's invention covers a system including a head-mounted display (HMD) mount, an iPhone (mobile device), and methods of activating audio modes of the system based on a physical relationship between the HMD mount and the mobile device, are disclosed.
In an embodiment, the HMD mount and the mobile device are joined by mounting the mobile device on the HMD mount. The system can detect whether the mobile device is mounted on the HMD mount and make changes to an audio mode in response to the detection.
For example, a device processor can determine that the mobile device is mounted in an enclosure of the HMD mount and responsively change an audio mode of the mobile device from a first (e.g., a normal) audio mode to a second (e.g., a special) audio mode.
Alternatively, the device processor can responsively transmit an audio mode signal to a wireless headphone processor of a wireless headphone indicating that the mobile device and HMD mount are physically paired (adjacent or fixed to one another). The wireless headphone (or one or more speakers built into the HMD mount) can, in response to receiving the audio mode signal, determine that the mobile device is mounted and change an audio mode from a first audio mode to a second audio mode.
The audio mode change of the mobile device or the wireless headphone can include reducing an audio signal latency of a latency chain between the mobile device and the wireless headphone.
For example, the audio signal latency may be reduced by reducing a buffer size used to store the audio signal in a wireless headphone memory of the wireless headphone. The mobile device may change the audio mode by using a different digital audio codec in the second audio mode to reduce the audio signal latency.
Accordingly, the second audio mode may have a lower audio signal latency than the first audio mode. The lower audio signal latency can provide a desired motion-to-sound latency between movement of an object displayed in a virtual reality scene by the mobile device and a corresponding sound played by the wireless headphone (or by one or more speakers built into the HMD mount).
In another embodiment, the change to the audio mode can involve non-latency adjustments to the mobile device or the wireless headphone. For example, the wireless headphone (or the HMD mount) can include speakers to play a sound corresponding to an image displayed by the mobile device, and the sound may be rendered in a different direction in the second audio mode than in the first audio mode.
Alternatively or additionally, the mobile device can include microphones to pick up sound from a surrounding environment, and the microphones may be adjusted to pick up sound in a preset direction, e.g., corresponding to a presumed direction of a user's mouth, when the system operates in the second audio mode.
In one aspect, a system is capable of automatically changing audio modes based on a physical relationship between an HMD mount and a mobile device. A processor of the system, e.g., a device processor of the mobile device and/or a wireless headphone processor of a wireless headphone of the HMD mount, can recognize that the mobile device is mounted on the HMD mount.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a pictorial view of a system having an iPhone mounted on a head-mounted display (HMD) mount that illustrates the use of built-in speakers or use AirPods in one configuration; FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a system.
Apple's patent FIGS. 8A and 8B below are pictorial views of a method of adjusting microphone focusing by an iPhone in a second audio mode.
Apple's patent FIGS. 7A and 7B are pictorial views of a method of adjusting sound rendering by a wireless headphone in a second audio mode.
Apple's patent application that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q2 2019. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. You could review the history of Apple's work on various headsets in our HMD Archives here.
The patent credits Senior Manager, Audio Design and Engineering Aram Lindahl as the sole inventor. Mr. Lindahl is a veteran Apple engineer being with Apple for over 17 years working as Senior Manager, iPod Media Software.
The U.S. Patent Office published two other headset related patents today as follows:
1) Techniques for locating Virtual Object Relative to Real Physical Objects
See Patent 20190347846 for full details
2) Affixing Digital Content to Physical Objects in Augmented Reality
See Patent 20190347856 for full details