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Apple updates their Over-the-Ear Headphones Invention by adding a Plurality of Optical Sensors and more

1 Cover over-ear headphones with audio touch controls

 

As we get closer to Apple launching their all-new Apple branded over-the-ear headphones that have been rumored since at least March 2018 by Bloomberg, Apple patents of one kind or another about over-the-ear headphones continue to be published by the U.S. Patent Office.

 

Back in February Apple was granted a particular over-the-ear patent relating to touch/gesture controls being applied to the outer cups of the headphones to make it easier for users to control their audio experience while providing a nice clean design without clunky buttons. 

 

Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a new patent application that comes in the form of a "continuation patent" which is a legal method of adding new aspects to an invention that has already been established in a prior patent filing on record.

 

The new aspects being added to their established patent today was done because Apple legal believed that the tweaks were important enough to justify the filing.  Apple legal knows all-too-well that there are unscrupulous patent trolls out there just ready to pounce on their every invention for anything that they feel Apple has inadequately protected.   

 

In today's continuation patent, Apple is shown to be adding a plurality of optical sensors to their invention with a very specific cause. Apple notes in their claims that "The pair of headphones of claim 1 wherein the one or more sensors comprise a plurality of optical sensors distributed across a surface of the earpiece facing the one of the user's ears and wherein each optical sensor in the plurality of optical sensors includes a sensor element that measures a distance between a portion of the user's anatomy and the sensor element."

 

Some of the other tweaks to their granted patent are covered below:

 

"The pair of headphones of claim 1 wherein the one or more sensors comprise a plurality of structured light sensors distributed across a surface of the earpiece facing the one of the user's ears and wherein each structured light sensor in the plurality of structured light sensors includes a sensor element that measures a distance between a portion of the user's anatomy and the sensor element.

 

A pair of headphones comprising: a first ear piece including a first speaker and a multi-touch interface disposed at an external surface of the first ear piece and configured to recognize the presence of more than one point of contact with the external surface."  

 

In legalese Apple further notes that "a second ear piece including a second speaker; a headband extending between the first and second ear pieces; a plurality of sensors distributed across a surface of one of the first or second ear pieces such that each of the plurality of sensors includes a sensor element proximate to one of the user's ears when the pair of headphones are worn by a user and wherein each sensor in the plurality of sensors generate sensor data indicating a distance between a portion of the user's anatomy and its sensor element; and control circuitry coupled to the plurality of sensors and to the touch interface and configured to: (i) determine whether the pair of headphones is worn by a user in a first upright orientation in which the pair of headphones is worn with the headband over the user's head or a second downward orientation in which the pair of headphones is work with the headband behind the user's neck based on the sensor data, (ii) detect a gesture input on the touch interface, (iii) process the gesture input to identify a predetermined function to perform on the headphones based on the gesture input and whether the headphones are worn by the user in the first or second orientation, and (iv) adjust playback of an audio signal by the pair of headphones in accordance with the predetermined function.

 

The pair of headphones of claim #16 wherein the plurality of sensors comprise a plurality of optical sensors distributed across a surface of the earpiece facing the one of the user's ears.

 

The pair of headphones of claim #16 wherein the plurality of sensors comprise a plurality of structured light sensors distributed across a surface of the earpiece facing the one of the user's ears."

 

In order to understand the patent claims references to headphone orientation, I've added a few of the original patent figures below to help you visualize the invention. Apple's patent FIG. 2A presented below shows us 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.

 

2 Headphone patent with audio controls on the headphone cups

 

The new patent claims help us to see that there are two orientations that the headband could be placed. The first is in the standard position of sitting over your head. The second position is when the headband is sitting on a user's neck as illustrated in patent FIG. 3A above.

 

The user's touch/gesture direction for controlling audio remains the same whether the cup is upright or oriented towards the neck even though technically the ear cup is oriented in a completely different direction.

 

Today a continuation patent was published by USPTO with very specific additions being added to their already established patent claims. This isn't a "new patent" as in first-to-market as Fake Patent News site "AppleWorld.Today" incorrectly reported on (Ha!). Some writers never learn. :-) 

 

You could check out today's continuation patent in full here. If you wish to compare the new patent claims to the old ones, then click here to see the granted patent claims.  

 

10.51XF - Continuation Patent Report Bar

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