Late last month the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that details the new AirPods Pro with force sensing controls built into its stem as illustrated in Apple's image presented above. The controls assist the user navigate their music, manage calls and provide three noise-control modes: Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode and Off. A user can switch between them, depending on how much their surroundings they want to hear.
(Click on image to Enlarge)
Apple's AirPods invention is focused on describing its force-activated feature. Technically, Apple's AirPods Pro includes a housing defining a force input surface, a first force electrode disposed within the housing, a second force electrode disposed within the housing, a spring member biasing the first force electrode toward the housing and allowing the first force electrode to move toward the second force electrode when an input force is applied to the force input surface, and a controller.
The controller is operative to determine a non-binary amount of the input force using a change in a capacitance between the first force electrode and the second force electrode.
Apple's patent FIG. 1A below depicts a block diagram illustrating example functional relationships between example components that may be implemented in an electronic device (AirPods Pro); FIG. 1B depicts an example implementation of the AirPods Pro of FIG. 1A; FIG. 1C depicts a user wearing AirPods Pro.
Apple's patent FIG. 1D below depicts the AirPods Pro of FIG. 1C forming an acoustic chamber with an ear canal of the user; FIG. 4 depicts the assembly of the AirPods Pro with the housing removed.
Apple's patent FIG. 11 above depicts a flow chart illustrating an example method for operating AirPods Pro which includes a force sensor; FIG. 12 depicts a flow chart illustrating an example method for assembling AirPods Pro.
For those interested in reviewing the details behind the AirPods Pro, checkout patent application 20200100013. The patent filing with the U.S. Patent Office was made close to three months prior to Apple launching AirPods Pro with force touch controls. The U.S. Patent Office made the details public on March 26, 2020.
Nahid Harjee: Sensor System Architect.
Teera Songatikamas: Touch Hardware Design Engineer
Brian Twehues: Position unknown.