Yesterday the US Patent & Trademark Office published a continuation patent from Apple that relates to future wearable display devices and systems that may incorporate multimodal audio components that are operable in a variety of selectable modes to allow for different user experiences.
Apple noted in their patent that Flexibility in audio operation is often desirable in that it allows for use of the system in a variety of settings or environments. For example, in the context of virtual reality (VR), a more immersive audio experience may be desirable (e.g., to block out or cancel external noise), whereas in the context of augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (MR), external noise may be of less import.
Apple's invention covers a head-mounted display system that facilitates image and/or video display; a user-wearable support that is connectable to (e.g., fixedly or removably supported by) the housing; and an audio component that is pivotably connected to the support such that the audio component is movable between first and second positions.
In certain embodiments, the audio component may be extendable and retractable to allow for variation in an overall length of the audio component.
In certain embodiments, the audio component may include an earpiece that is positioned to receive sound through the second port. To reduce (or entirely cancel) external noise in the second mode, the earpiece may be configured for sealing engagement with the user's ear.
In Apple's patent FIG 1 below we seen an embodiment of an audio component in accordance with the principles of the invention shown in a first position during operation in a first mode (i.e., an extra-aural mode).
Apple's patent FIG. 5 above is a side, plan view of the wearable display system illustrating operation of the audio component in a hybrid mode that allows for both the intra-aural and extra-aural projection of sound; FIG. 8 is a side, plan view of the audio component shown in a second (elongated) configuration.
Patently Apple first covered the original patent filing back in March 2020 and their granted patent in October. You could the full March report here for more details.
Today's patent report isn't about a new invention application but rather a continuation patent wherein Apple is updating and/or adding specific technology, features and/or methods that they want to legally extend, protect and fold into their granted patent which is legally permitted. Any change and/or addition to their invention is restricted to Apple's patent claims that are legally binding.
Additional Patent Claims
Apple's October 2020 granted patent covered patent claims that basically covered 3 specific areas of their invention as follows:
- A head-mounted display system
- A wearable display system, and
- A Method of controlling audio operability in a wearable display system.
Apple's continuation patent that was published yesterday, January 21, 2020, added 20 patent claims covering 3 additional areas of Apple's invention as follows:
- An audio component for a head-mounted display system
- A display system that facilitates image and video display, and
- A head-mounted display system that facilitates image and video display
As examples, the three key additional areas of focus for Apple's invention are presented below:
Patent Claim #1 is supported by 5 claims (2-6). The first Claim establishes "An audio component for a head-mounted display system, comprising: a first port through which sound is projected to a user during operation in a first audio mode; a second port through which sound is projected to a user during operation in a second audio mode; an insulator positioned along an acoustic path between the first port and the second port, wherein the insulator is configured to inhibit sound projection along the acoustic path by isolating the first port from the second port; and an earpiece configured to engage the audio component to an ear of the a user, to deliver sound from the audio component to the user, and to reduce ambient noise from a surrounding environment during operation of the audio component in the second audio mode."
Patent Claim #7 is supported by 10 claims (8-17) that establishes "A display system that facilitates image and video display, comprising: a wearable support configured to secure the display system to a user; an audio component configured to connect to the wearable support, the audio component comprising: a first port through which sound is projected to the user in a first audio mode; and a second port through which sound is projected to the user in a second audio mode; and an accessory configured to connect to the audio component, wherein connecting the accessory to the audio component transitions the audio component from the first audio mode to the second audio mode.
Patent Claim #18 is supported by 2 patent claims 19 and 20 that establishes "A head-mounted display system that facilitates image and video display, comprising: a wearable support configured to secure the head-mounted display system to a head of a user; an audio component configured to connect to the wearable support, operate in a first audio mode where sound projects in a direction away from the head of the user, and operate in a second audio mode where sound projects in a direction toward or into an ear of the user; and a controller configured to alternate operation of the head-mounted display system between a first visual mode based on operation of the audio component in the first audio mode and a second visual mode based on operation of the audio component in the second audio mode."
Apple adds that in claim #18, the head-mounted display system, either in first or second modes, relates to varying modes such as virtual reality mode, an augmented reality mode and/or a mixed reality mode.
To review all 20 patent claims, check out Apple's continuation patent 20210018758 that was published yesterday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Considering that this is a continuation patent, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.