Apple Wins a Patent for new AirPods Pro Safety Features when Biking, Jogging and working out on a new Exercise Mat with Sensors
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 77 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover a granted patent that has no record of ever being a patent application under Apple so as to keep it under the radar of preying competitor eyes. This secretive patent reveals all-new safety features built into next-gen AirPods Pro. For instance, if a user is biking, the AirPods Pro will know the user's speed and velocity in relation to objects around them such as another biker and immediately shut off the user's music to alert the biker to pay attention on the situation before them. Apple also introduces us to a new AirPods Pro accessory in the form of an exercise mat that is full of sensors. When the user's posture is incorrect, AirPods Pro will stop a user's music to instruct them to straighten out in various exercises including yoga.
Apple notes that recent advances in portable computing have provided users with an unprecedented amount of content to consume in nearly any setting. Wearable electronic devices, such as earbuds, headphones, glasses, and the like provide audio to a user substantially wherever or whenever they may be.
While this facilitates user choice, it has the unintended side effect of often consuming a user's attention, or otherwise distracting them in some situations. This may impact a user's safety as well as the safety of those around her. This is what Apple's granted patent addresses for future AirPods Pro.
Apple's granted patent takes the form of a new contextual audio system, comprising: a wearable audio device, comprising: an audio output structure; and a receiver; and a sensing device, comprising: a transmitter in communication with the receiver; and a position sensor configured to receive positional data; wherein: at least one of the wearable audio device or the sensing device is configured to adjust audio output from the audio output structure in response to the positional data.
Still other embodiments take the form of a method for operating a contextual audio system, comprising: receiving positional data for a sensing device of the contextual audio system; determining the sensing device's location from the positional data; determining that the location is one where a user should be alert; and in response to determining that the location is one where the user should be alert, adjusting an audio output of a wearable audio device of the contextual audio system.
Yet other embodiments take the form of a contextual audio system, comprising: a pair of earbuds; and a smart watch in wireless communication with the pair of earbuds; wherein: the pair of earbuds is configured to provide audio output to a user; the smart watch is configured to determine a location of the user; the smart watch is further configured to execute an application; the smart watch is configured to determine whether the pair of earbuds is to adjust its audio based on the location of the user and the application; the smart watch is configured to provide an instruction to the pair of earbuds to adjust its audio output; and the pair of earbuds is configured to adjust the audio output in response to the instruction from the smart watch.
Apple's patent FIG. 4B below depicts the sample contextual audio system and its user in a second position, while cycling along the road; The system knows the user's speed and location near another bike and adjusts the sound so that the user could focus on the situation at hand for safety reasons.
As one non-limiting example, the sensing device may determine that the wearable audio device engages both ears and that the user is at a side of, or on, a road. The sensing device may pause or prevent audio playback through the speaker adjacent, within, or otherwise associated with the user's left ear. In some embodiments, audio outputted by the wearable audio device to the user's right ear may be unaffected. This may permit a user to hear traffic while still listening to audio from the wearable audio device, for example. Audio to the left ear may be stopped, muted, or lowered as people typically walk with their left side toward the road.
In some embodiments, the sensing device may receive speed (velocity) data or may interpolate a user's speed based on changes in position data over time. Audio may be paused, stopped, muted, or the like only when the user's speed is above or below a threshold, or between two thresholds. As yet another example, a user's speed may suggest he or she is traveling on a bicycle and audio to the user's ear may be paused, stopped, muted, or changed in volume (all of which are encompassed in the term "adjusted") accordingly. When the user stops, unadjusted audio playback may resume.
Further, changes in position data may also indicate a direction of motion. The direction of motion may be used with the position data to determine which audio output (e.g., left or right ear audio) should be adjusted, as described above. For example, if positional data indicates a user is at or moving along a side of, or on, a road, the sensing device or wearable audio device may adjust audio output as described above. However, the ear to which audio output is adjusted may be determined from the user's direction of motion. The direction of motion may indicate a user is moving along a shoulder of a road with his or her right side toward the road (presuming the user is walking forwards). Thus, audio output to the right ear may be adjusted. If the motion data suggests the user is walking with his or her left side towards the road, audio output to the left ear may be adjusted.
In still other embodiments, the sensing device and/or wearable audio device may be configured to execute a program, operation, application, or the like associated with a particular activity.
For example, a jogging application may track the user's distance traveled, route, and/or other information. In some embodiments the sensing device and/or wearable audio device may only adjust audio output to a user at certain points along the route, as tracked by an application program, operation, or the like; the term "application," as used herein, encompasses all of the foregoing. As another option, the application may also track when and/or where audio is adjusted. As still another option, audio may be adjusted only if the application is active. As still another option, the type of adjustment to audio may vary with what application is active or otherwise being executed.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 below illustrates a sample workout mat #600 that is one example of a sensing device. The mat includes drive lines #610 and sense lines #620 that, taken together, form a set of capacitive force-sensing nodes.
These nodes are examples of position sensors #300. Here the position sensors detect a location of a person standing on the sensing mat.
Apple's patent FIGS. 5A-5B above illustrate another example embodiment of a contextual audio system, in which a sensing device #520 and wearable audio devices 510a, 510b cooperate to determine when audio output is adjusted.
The user 500 also wears clothing 530 that incorporates a sensing device 520. The sensing device 520 may be woven into the clothing, may be contained within the clothing, or the like.
In response to determining the user 500 is leaning to one side, the embodiment may adjust audio outputted through the audio output structure 200 of one or both of the wearable audio devices 510a, 510b. The adjusted audio may prompt the user 500 to straighten his stance and may provide cues as to which way the user leans, resulting in the user standing straight as shown in FIG. 5B. For example, audio may be muted, paused, raised, or lowered on one side or the other to provide audible feedback to the user regarding his posture.
The other example noted above relates to yoga training working the same way as FIGS. 5A and 5B.
Apple's granted patent 10,743,095 was originally filed in Q1 2019 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Mr. Blahnik: Special Projects team; Mr. Blahnik is recognized as one of the premier fitness educators, trainers, and instructors in the industry, and has taught sold-out classes and seminars in over 30 countries across the globe.
Ms. Bergeron: VP Hardware Engineering Apple audio hardware (AirPods Pro, HomePod).