Apple Wins Patent for Future Over-Ear Headphones with Touch Gesture Audio Controls on each Ear Cup
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 69 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's patent that relates to future over-ear headphones with touch gesture audio controls on each cup along with senors. Rumors circulated last week that we may finally see Apple's advanced over-ear headphones in the first half of 2020. Whether this particular feature will make it to market in the first version of Apple's headphones is unknown at this time.
Apple notes that headphones may be used to transport an audio signal from a source device (e.g., a mobile device, an MP3 player, etc.) to a user's ears. In some instances, characteristics of the audio signal may be controlled, such as turning the audio signal on or off, pausing the audio signal, changing the audio signal (e.g., switching from one song to another song), rewinding the audio signal, fast forwarding the audio signal, adjusting volume of the audio signal, adjusting treble of the audio signal, adjusting bass of the audio signal, and/or the like. This control may typically be performed at the source device by the user using one or more input elements, such as buttons. In response, the audio signal may be transformed before it reaches the headphones.
Apple's invention is set to change that so that a user will be able to adjust the quality of the audio right from the headphones instead of from an iPhone or other device.
For example, it may be easier for a user to adjust the volume of an audio signal directly on the headphones while they are being worn than to remove a source device, such as a mobile device, from a pocket or purse, then to interact with the source device to cause the transformation. Some headphones may allow for adjustment of the audio signal via one or more input elements (e.g., buttons) coupled to the wiring between the headphones and the source device.
However, such wired input elements may become obstructive in different headphone orientations (e.g., with the headband around the neck). Further, wired input elements may not be desirable for wireless headphone implementations.
The granted patent covers systems and methods of detecting headphone rotation to properly process user input to the headphones. The systems and methods described may be used, for example, to detect a gesture (e.g., a swipe) received as user input on a touch interface of the headphones, such as a touch interface integrated into an ear piece. The gesture may be made in a particular direction, such as down toward Earth.
However, headphones may be worn in a plurality of configurations, such as upright with the headband around the top of the head, downward with the headband around the back of the neck, or anywhere in between. Therefore the systems and methods described herein may be used to determine the rotation of the headphones in order to properly ascertain the intended gesture and perform an intended result.
Some embodiments of the disclosure pertain to a pair of headphones that include first and second ear pieces connected by a headband. The first ear piece includes a first speaker and a touch interface disposed at an external surface of the first ear piece.
The second ear piece includes a second speaker. The pair of headphones can further include control circuitry coupled to the one or more sensors and to the touch interface and configured to determine a rotation of the first ear piece relative to a user's ear based on sensor data. The control circuitry can be further configured to detect and determine a direction of a swipe gesture across the touch interface and to perform a predetermined function based on the direction of the swipe gesture and the rotation of the first ear piece relative to the user's ear.
Apple further notes that both earphones will have its independent touch interfaces to control the audio.
The headphones can further include one or more sensors that generate sensor data and control circuitry coupled to the one or more sensors and to the touch interface. The sensor data can be used to determine a rotation of the first and second ear pieces with respect to a user's ears and the control circuitry can be configured to: (i) determine a rotation of the first ear piece relative to a user's ear based on the sensor data, (ii) detect and determine a swipe gesture input on the touch interface, and (iii) perform a predetermined function based on the swipe gesture input and the rotation of the first ear piece relative to the user's ear.
Apple's patent FIG. 2A below shows a side view of a pair of headphones being worn by a user in an upright orientation; FIG. 2B shows a side view of an ear piece of a pair of headphones receiving a swipe gesture as user input in an upright orientation; FIG. 3A shows a side view of a pair of headphones being worn by a user in a downward orientation; FIG. 3B shows a side view of an ear piece of a pair of headphones receiving a swipe gesture as user input in a downward orientation; FIG. 8 shows a flowchart of a method for detecting rotation of a pair of headphones.
Apple's patent FIG. 6A below shows a side view of an exemplary sensor array; FIG. 6B shows a side view of another exemplary sensor array; FIG. 7 shows a system level block diagram of a computing device that may be used to implement a pair of headphones.
Apple's granted patent 10,555,066 was originally filed in Q3 2018 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.