Apple Patent reveals new Through-Body' input for AirPods allowing users to control functionality by touching their face, clicking their teeth & more
In late August Patently Apple covered a granted patent relating to future AirPods Pro being able to accept in-air input gestures as presented in our cover graphic from that patent. Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a second AirPods Pro patent relating to new input methods. This time Apple is researching ways of using a next-gen "through body" sensor system that would allow a user to touch their face in such a manner that it would be interpreted by AirPods Pro as a control request.
Apple's granted patent describes systems, devices, and techniques related to a wearable audio device, such as an earbud or other device, that is configured to detect inputs and change the operation of the wearable audio device in accordance with the inputs. In some embodiments, the wearable audio device is disposed in a structure and detects signals propagating through or within the structure. Various inputs may cause one or more signals to propagate through or within the structure, outside the structure, or some combination thereof. The wearable audio device may determine whether a detected signal was generated by an input and, if so, change its operation in accordance with the input. Examples of structures include an ear, the walls of an ear canal, a head, a user's body, a body part, and the like.
An "input action" refers to any action, condition, or the like that can be detected by a wearable audio device and interpreted by the wearable audio device as an input. In various embodiments, one or more input actions may correspond to inputs at the wearable audio device.
In some embodiments, users perform input actions by interacting with the structure in which the wearable audio device is disposed (e.g., a human body). In some embodiments, a user may contact (e.g., tap, swipe, press, or otherwise contact) the structure.
For example, the user may contact an exterior surface of their body, such as the skin on his or her face. Further examples of input actions include a user clicking his or her teeth together or clicking his or her tongue.
Still further examples include producing vocal sounds, subvocalizations, or other sounds. "Subvocalizations," as used herein, refers to vocal sounds that are below a level at which humans can typically hear, which is typically around 0 decibels.
Input actions may further include a user moving a body part, such as moving (e.g., shaking) his or her head, moving his or her hands, arms, legs, and so on.
Input actions are not intended to be limited to the user interacting with his or her own body. For example, input actions may include a user contacting or otherwise interacting with another object, such as an inanimate object or another person.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 below depicts a wearable audio device positioned in the ear of a user. The wearable audio device 500 includes functionality for detecting input actions. In some embodiments, the user may perform an input action by contacting a body part of the user. For example, as shown in FIG. 5, the user may contact the user's head (face) using the user's finger (#552). The input devices of the wearable audio device 500 may detect signals that correspond to the input action.
Apple's patent FIG. 6A above depicts a cross-sectional view of an ear (#660) of a user and embodiments 600A-C of a wearable audio device. FIG. 6A shows a through-body input device 690A operably coupled to the sealed passage 630, and thereby coupled to the ear canal 684.
An input action corresponding to a user contacting his or her own body may cause an acoustic signal to propagate through or within the user's body, and a microphone coupled to the user's ear canal 684 or otherwise coupled to the user's body may detect this acoustic signal. The processing unit 612 of the wearable audio device 600A (or another processing unit of an associated electronic device) may analyze or otherwise process this signal to determine that it was generated by an input action.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 above illustrates an example process 700 for changing the operation of a wearable audio device in response to receiving a signal generated by an input action.
Review Apple's granted patent 10,873,798 for finer details.