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
117 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
117 months ago
What about people with big heads?
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Yakibomb Avatar
117 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
117 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
117 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
117 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)

Popular Stories

iphone se 4 modified flag edges

iPhone SE 4 With Face ID Said to Be Priced Below $500

Monday May 20, 2024 3:43 am PDT by
Apple is targeting a sub-$500 starting price for its upcoming fourth-generation iPhone SE model despite a raft of rumored upgrades coming to the more affordable device. According to leaker Revegnus on X, the U.S. launch price of the fourth-generation iPhone SE will either remain at the same $429 starting price as the current model, or will see an increase of around 10%. Either way, Apple's...
iOS 17

Apple Releases iOS 17.5.1 With Fix for Reappearing Photos Bug

Monday May 20, 2024 10:11 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 17.5.1 and iPadOS 17.5.1, minor updates to the iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 operating system updates that came out last September. The 17.5.1 updates come a week after the launch of iOS 17.5 and iPadOS 17.5. iOS 17.5.1 and iPadOS 17.5.1 can be downloaded on eligible iPhones and iPads over-the-air by going to Settings > General > Software Update. According to Apple's...
iPhone 16 Camera Lozenge 2 Perspective

iPhone 16 Lineup Rumored to Come in These Two New Colors

Sunday May 19, 2024 11:08 am PDT by
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo today outlined his expectations for the iPhone 16 lineup's color options, revealing that two new colors should replace two of the existing shades. Kuo outlined his expectations in a post on X (formerly Twitter) earlier today. He believes that the iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max will be available in black, white or silver, gray or "Natural Titanium," and rose....
microsoft surface pro qualcomm

Microsoft Says New Surface Pro is Faster Than 15" M3 MacBook Air

Monday May 20, 2024 3:19 pm PDT by
Microsoft is going all in on AI, today introducing a series of Copilot+ PCs that have AI-focused hardware. The new Surface Pro is one of the first Copilot+ PCs, equipped with Qualcomm's Arm-based Snapdragon X Elite processor. Microsoft is already pitting the Surface Pro against Apple's M3 MacBook Air, and in marketing materials, claims that the Surface Pro has superior processing power and...
iOS 17

iOS 17.5 Bug May Also Resurface Deleted Photos on Wiped, Sold Devices [Updated]

Friday May 17, 2024 12:24 pm PDT by
A bug in iOS 17.5 is apparently causing photos that have been deleted to reappear, and the issue seems to impact even iPhones and iPads that have been erased and sold off to other people. A Reddit user wiped an iPad following Apple's guidelines in September of 2023 before selling it off to a friend. That friend updated the iPad to iPadOS 17.5 this week, and began seeing the Reddit user's old ...
iphone se 4 modified flag edges

When to Expect the Next iPhone SE to Launch

Friday May 17, 2024 2:03 pm PDT by
It has been over two years since Apple released the third-generation iPhone SE, and rumors continue to surface about a new model. The latest word comes from The Information, which today reported that Apple plans to release a new iPhone SE with a design similar to the standard iPhone 14 in the spring of 2025. If this rumor is accurate, the iPhone SE would finally gain Face ID and a notch...