Apple updates their Magnetically Attachable Headphone Cups Accessory Invention for their Mixed Reality Headset
In late December 2019 Patently Apple posted a patent application report titled "Apple Invents a Secondary Audio System for its Future Mixed Reality Headset that Includes Detachable Speakers." While Apple's HMD may come with some form of built-in speaker system, it appears that Apple may offer users an accessory that could provide an advanced audio system in the form of over-the-ear cups, that don't have a headband. Instead, Apple has invented a magnetic system that securely holds the ear cups to the sides of the HMD device while allowing the cups to pivot so as to adjust to a user's comfort level.
The patent noted that when the advanced audio ear cups are on the HMD device, it provides the user with a menu and indicators that allow the user to adjust the audio as desired but also communicate with the user when, for instance, a game scene is about to show an explosion that may be loud so that the user could adjust the sound accordingly. It's a pretty cool invention to be sure.
Apple's patent FIG. 1B below is a top view of the display system. You'll note that there isn't a headphone band going across the user's head because the cups are independent units; FIG. 1C is a schematic view of the display system; and FIG. 1D is a schematic view of a detachable speaker unit of the display system.
The patent figures presented below illustrate the magnetic of the head in various views including how the headphone cup could pivot for comfort while its supporting system is firmly attached to the Head-Mounted Display device. The illustrations 4A and 4B show how magnets in the detachable speakers will allow for the two cups to mate for storage where the inner cups are protected.
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published Apple's continuation patent wherein they've added 20 new patent claims designed to better protect various aspects of their invention. Below we highlight 4 out of 20 new patent claims.
For instance, the first two new patent claims cover the Mixed Reality Headset controller as follows:
Patent Claim #1: A display system comprising: a head-mounted display unit that outputs visual content to a user; an audio output device that outputs aural content to the user; and a controller that controls the head-mounted display unit to output the visual content and the audio output device to output the aural content; wherein when the audio output device is in a field of view of the head-mounted display unit, the visual content output by the head-mounted display includes a visual indicator in spatial proximity to the audio output device that is within the field of view.
Patent Claim #2: The display system according to claim 1, wherein the visual indicator indicates a sound output capability of the audio output device to the user; wherein a position of the audio output device is determined by the controller according to sensors of one or more of the head-mounted display or the audio output device; wherein the field of view is a portion of a real environment that is viewable by the user by one of a video pass-through or an optical pass-through; and wherein the audio output device is a detachable speaker unit that is detachably coupleable to the head-mounted display unit.
In the next two new patent claims highlighted, Apple covers new visual content instructions and added a 'method' covering visual content used with the display system.
Patent Claim #14: The display system according to claim 13, further comprising an audio headset that includes the audio output device and another audio output device that is detachably coupleable to the head-mounted display unit at another a coupling location; wherein the visual content includes graphical representations of the audio output device and the coupling location; wherein the visual content includes instructions to move the audio output device to the coupling location, the instructions including one or more of iconography, text, or an animation; and wherein the controller determines the position of the audio output device relative to the coupling location according to sensors of one or more of the head-mounted display unit or the audio output device.
Patent Claim #20: A method for providing visual content with a display system having a head-mounted display unit that outputs the visual content to a user, an audio output device that outputs aural content to the user, and a controller that controls the head-mounted display unit to output the visual content and the audio output device to output the aural content, the method comprising: determining, with the controller and one or more sensors of one or more of the head-mounted display unit or the audio output device, a position of the audio output device relative to the head-mounted display; and displaying, with the head-mounted display unit according to the position, a visual indicator in spatial proximity to the audio output device within a field of view of the head-mounted display unit, the field of view being a portion of a real environment that is viewable by the user as a visual pass-through of the head-mounted display unit.
To review the remaining 16 new patent claims, review Apple's continuation patent 20210076120.
Whether this audio headset accessory will be available when Apple first launches their first Mixed Reality or VR Headset is unknown at this time.