The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today published a patent application filed by Apple in November 2012 (via AppleInsider), detailing a version of Apple's Earbuds that would smartly detect when two users are sharing the same earphone set and in-turn switch audio to single- or multi-user mode.

The headphones would use a variety of sensors, including an "angle sensor configured to measure an angle at the Y-junction of a cable associated with the pair of headphones," to determine in real-time whether the device was being used by more than one person. The Y-junction strain detector would measure the widening gap between the point where the headphones split into buds for the right and left ear, measuring whether to readjust the audio for two users as the gap widens or just one when it stays the same.

earphone patent
Interestingly, the patent also details a possible way that two users would not only be able to listen to the same music with better quality on a single pair of headphones, but listen to completely different songs at the same time. Other options are portrayed in the patent for helping to detect a change between user count, ranging from basic mechanical switches to measuring precise angle alignment of a pair of headphones using light transmission and fiber optic cables.

Given that the patent application was filed over two years ago and Apple has yet to release earphones with the proposed technology, it is unlikely the company has plans to do so. Still, as a response to a common use of one of Apple's products in the wild, today's patent is definitely an interesting glimpse into the way the company observes unexpected uses of even its most simple creations.

Tag: patent

Top Rated Comments

JackANSI Avatar
80 months ago
And the record industry would love for this to be twisted into "stop playing and ask for more money if you want to share a song on the same pair of headphones" ;)
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GenesisST Avatar
80 months ago
What about people with big heads?
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Yakibomb Avatar
80 months ago
Cant see how well this would work in the real world, my earphones are often tangles at parts above the Y-junction and it would be pretty annoying if the volume kept changing due to that
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
4jasontv Avatar
80 months ago
Let's think about this. You and the person to your left are listening to your music with one set of headphones on. Which ear do you use? Your left ear of course! The person to your right uses their right ear. How would this make the angle at the split large enough to activate the two person mode?
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Salvor Hardin Avatar
80 months ago
And the record industry would love for this to be twisted into "stop playing and ask for more money if you want to share a song on the same pair of headphones" ;)
Microsoft filled a patent ('http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=%2220120278904%22.PGNR.&OS=DN/20120278904&RS=DN/20120278904')for doing this with movies at home using Kinect. Thankfully nothing still hasn't come out of that.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Doctor Q Avatar
80 months ago
I want my earphones to detect when I'm singing along and drop the voice track from the song. Instant karaoke!
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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