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Apple examining headphones that can double as loudspeakers

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
In a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, Apple presented an invention for a "dual-mode headphone" that can transform from a normal set of earbuds to a more robust speaker system.

Deual-mode Headphone
Source: USPTO


First filed for in 2011, the proposed system incorporates the usual in-ear headphone arrangement with specialized position-sensing circuitry and a power amplifier, allowing a user to dynamically switch from personal listening mode to speaker mode.

From the application's background:

Users typically listen to content on their portable devices using headphones, although there are speakers available that can be connected to the portable devices to enable multiple users to listen in at the same time. This approach, however, may require a user to carry both a headphone and speakers, or may require the user to rely on speakers built into the device, which may not be as powerful or have as high a sound quality as external speakers.


In operation, the headphones can detect its position and output sound in "headphone mode," where the amplifier is bypassed, or "speaker mode," which passes the audio signal through said amplifier. To prevent a user from being harmed by inadvertently activating the speaker mode while wearing the headphones, a separate sensor can be employed to detect when the unit is near a user's ears.

Any number of sensors can be implemented in the invention, including IR sensors, ambient light sensors, Hall effect sensors, and others. In one embodiment, a sensor that can detect contact with a user's ears is integrated into the headphone to prevent hearing damage.

In addition to automatically detecting positioning, users can manually activate speaker mode with physical buttons. An articulating arm or other design component can also be used to prop the headphones up when in speaker mode.

Positions
Various speaker listening positions.


Finally, one embodiment describes an implementation that allows the headphone to be used as an in-ear set as well as a speaker by positioning extra ports directed away from the user's ears.

As with many patent applications, the fate of the dual-mode headphone remains uncertain, though Apple's new EarPods illustrated the company is still researching new design techniques for its audio products.
post #2 of 15
For the sake of anyone who's ever used public transport or flown on a plane, I hope this product doesn't happen.
post #3 of 15
What if you are by yourself in the privacy of your own home/office? Personally, Apple has better things to spend their R&D money. I would like to see them make speakers on their iMac/iPad products where the speakers face the user than facing downward or away from the user. If the speakers point towards the user, then they can hear them better. MId to High frequencies tend to travel in a more directional fashion, whereas bass doesn't.

I know they would have to make perforations in the aluminum chassis for the iMac or in the glass in the iPads, etc. but that's about the only way they can get the sound facing the user.
post #4 of 15

Apple seems to be coming up with a lot of good ideas that improve on each piece of their systems. They continue to innovate and drive their products forward. I can only imagine where they will be in 5 years.

post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buckus Toothnai 

Sounds like a BAD idea. I'm sure some stoner is gonna forget he has his headphones on "loudspeaker" mode and will blow out his eardrums.

 

Not worth the lawsuits Apple.


yea, this was my first thought. kind of.

post #6 of 15
Sounds neat, but why not upgrade there built in speakers, instead of a speaker/headphone combo, I have asked for this on CD players but not a apple product
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

For the sake of anyone who's ever used public transport or flown on a plane, I hope this product doesn't happen.

What's the diff? Those dbags just have the volume up so loud it's bleeding out anyway.
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buckus Toothnai
Sounds like a BAD idea. I'm sure some stoner is gonna forget he has his headphones on "loudspeaker" mode and will blow out his eardrums.

Not worth the lawsuits Apple.

1. Put some kind of prox sensor that knows when they are in ears

2. If you a drunk or stoned and do something stupid that is Apple's fault how?

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

What if you are by yourself in the privacy of your own home/office? Personally, Apple has better things to spend their R&D money.

1. Your opinion and not necessarily shared by anyone, particularly at Apple

2. They patent a lot of ideas they really have little intention of doing but will license to others to try

3. Just like their lawyers aren't also the engineers they have lots of folks with different specialities working on different things so untwist it and move on
post #10 of 15

How about putting some speakers on the left and right bezels of an iPhone?  Also put such speakers on the top and bottom to use in landscape mode. Apple could use micro perforations which might not be visible to the user but sufficient to transmit sound. That might also solve the stereo sound dilemma.

iMac 21.5" 2.7 GHz (2011), 1TB HDD, 8GB RAM; iPhone 5c 16GB White; iPod Touch 4G 8GB Black; iPod Touch 2G 8GB
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iMac 21.5" 2.7 GHz (2011), 1TB HDD, 8GB RAM; iPhone 5c 16GB White; iPod Touch 4G 8GB Black; iPod Touch 2G 8GB
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post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buckus Toothnai 

Sounds like a BAD idea. I'm sure some stoner is gonna forget he has his headphones on "loudspeaker" mode and will blow out his eardrums.

 

Not worth the lawsuits Apple.


No.  They may use the same proximity sensor.  When it is in Loudspeaker mode and faces ear, it would not work.  Come on, its Apple.  Its not any other company.  Trust Apple. :)

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buckus Toothnai 

Sounds like a BAD idea. I'm sure some stoner is gonna forget he has his headphones on "loudspeaker" mode and will blow out his eardrums.

 

Not worth the lawsuits Apple.

 

Some near-deaf metalhead from the 80s is probably stoked about this.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

1. Put some kind of prox sensor that knows when they are in ears
2. If you a drunk or stoned and do something stupid that is Apple's fault how?

The story already mentions sensors ... and it'll still be a field day for tort lawyers making real or spurious claims for their clients that the prox sensor didn't work ... regardless of whether the alleged injured party was intoxicated. Do you remember shortly after the iPads came out, when a couple shysters filed a court action claiming that the units shut down when left in hot sunlight? Of course, that's exactly what they were designed to do. It seems that the built-in thermal protection circuitry was depriving users of the iPad experience they had paid to expect, the lawyers claimed.

I admit to being a Fanatical Moderate. I Disdain the Inane. Vyizderzominymororzizazizdenderizorziz?

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I admit to being a Fanatical Moderate. I Disdain the Inane. Vyizderzominymororzizazizdenderizorziz?

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post #14 of 15
Would it not be easier to strengthen your neck muscles and slap on a pair of Ear- Speakers?... Boomboxes i believe they are called LOL.

ah Yes Apple is trying to revive the glorious past, And make it smaller and better...(how do you make BOOMboxes state-of-the-art?)
/sarcasm
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

1. Put some kind of prox sensor that knows when they are in ears
2. If you a drunk or stoned and do something stupid that is Apple's fault how?

It's a reference to how US liability laws are a bit out of hand, such that many lawsuits cover people that don't take personal responsibility for their own actions.
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