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Apple working on voice-recognizing headphones with built-in accelerometer, beamforming mics

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Apple is looking to advance the design of its bundled iPhone EarPods by potentially implanting an accelerometer into the earbud portion that could recognize voice activity, which in turn would activate and tune beamforming microphone arrays.

Earpods


According to a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, Apple is investigating an enhanced headphone device that can recognize a user's voice, activates multiple on-board microphones, turns on a noise suppression system and directs beamforming mics toward a user's head.

According to Apple's "System and method of detecting a user's voice activity using an accelerometer" the enhanced earbuds are loaded with on-board sensors, including an accelerometer and two microphones. These sensors, in tandem with a microphone array located along the headphone wire, form a noise-suppressing system much more advanced than the company's EarPods product.




The method begins with the accelerometer. In some embodiments, the sensor is used as a voice activity detector (VAD) that detects vibrations generated by a user. Both voiced speech (generated by a user's vocal chords) and unvoiced speech (generated without use of vocal chords) can be detected by the accelerometer via vibrations propagating through tissue and bone.

Detected accelerometer vibration data from is joined by signals from front- and rear-facing microphones embedded in one or both earbuds. In some embodiments, the accelerometer is tuned to detect lower frequency vibrations in what is called a VADa system. Alternatively, signals output from the two microphones can be used to determine voiced speech, or a VADm arrangement.

The VAD system scans for both voiced (VADv) and unvoiced (VADu) signals, which are combined with other signal data to inform a noise suppression circuit. Based on the information, noise from the area surrounding a user can be estimated and an effective beamforming algorithm can be applied to the system's various mic arrays.




In some embodiments, mics located in the heaphones and along the unit's wire are set to a general beamform directed at the user's face. Alternatively, a more active beamformer is described that can be adaptively steered depending on VAD output. For example, the accelerometer-based VAD can be used to steer the beamformer toward a user's mouth.

Alternatively, a noise suppression system can be made more effective by steering microphones in the direction of ambient noise not associated with voiced or unvoiced speech, which is then removed from the signal.




It is unknown whether Apple will implement the invention in a future earphone, though the EarPods would certainly benefit from noise-canceling tech. Hardware already exists to build such a system, as seen in the MacBook lineup's beamforming mics.

Apple's VAD-equipped headphone patent application was first filed for in March 2013 and credits Sorin V. Dusan, Esge B. Andersen, Aram Lindahl and Andrew P. Bright as its inventors.
post #2 of 14

How about reducing sound leakage first?

post #3 of 14
How about getting rid of the wires? In this age of wireless, I'm surprised Apple isn't working on a new bt headset. It's a market that has seen little innovation in my opinion, and one that could use Apple's prowess at battery management and aesthetic design.
post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmgregory1 View Post

How about getting rid of the wires? In this age of wireless, I'm surprised Apple isn't working on a new bt headset. It's a market that has seen little innovation in my opinion, and one that could use Apple's prowess at battery management and aesthetic design.

power and sound quality.   Let battery progress and kinetic charging evolve.

 

I see this (if it ever happens) as more tightly tying the 'ecosystem' together.  This is the correct order... improve sound capture, personalize and learn the 'owner', start 'recognizing' head gestures.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post
 

How about reducing sound leakage first?

leakage in?   mic's on the earphone's work for sound cancellation.  if you 'feel' a wave, that doesn't align with 'voice' of your owner, you can create an out of phase wave to cancel it out.   

 

leakage out (my son's buds playing 311 at '11')... that's a different problem;-)

post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post
 

power and sound quality.   Let battery progress and kinetic charging evolve.

 

I see this (if it ever happens) as more tightly tying the 'ecosystem' together.  This is the correct order... improve sound capture, personalize and learn the 'owner', start 'recognizing' head gestures.

 

 

leakage in?   mic's on the earphone's work for sound cancellation.  if you 'feel' a wave, that doesn't align with 'voice' of your owner, you can create an out of phase wave to cancel it out.   

 

leakage out (my son's buds playing 311 at '11')... that's a different problem;-)

 

He might mean... the sound comes out loud from earphones while you are listening to music.

post #6 of 14
Id really like to see BlueTooth EarPods. The same but no stem. The only thing is the control.
post #7 of 14

I 4 one welcome this.  I have noticed the existing microphone isn't so good.  I had to buy Bose ear buds.  They have better sound canceling tech.

An Apple man since 1977
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An Apple man since 1977
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post #8 of 14
Wow, sounds cool.
post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post

 

leakage out (my son's buds playing 311 at '11')... that's a different problem;-)

 

Yup, that's what I meant - leakage out. Bad for the listener, bad for people around the listener.

post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlashFan207 View Post

Wow, sounds cool.

Phil Schiller said so.

"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 #11 of 14
Obligatory for Siri. Why should we press a button to call it, even on the phone. It should always be listening. Having such a device, without even the cord, seems obligatory with a smartwatch to me. What the movie Her shows seems the logical implementation (if not smaller of course).
post #12 of 14

I'd be satisfied if they'd just make a COMFORTABLE pair of earbuds that didn't cost 80 effin' dollars, instead of those painful, hideous plastic ones they currently ship.

 

And even then, for $80 you'd expect them to last longer than they do: I've had 3 pairs, and every one had either the left or right bud FAIL after about a year. And god help you if you lose the silicone tips….no replacements for you!

post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmgregory1 View Post

How about getting rid of the wires? In this age of wireless, I'm surprised Apple isn't working on a new bt headset. It's a market that has seen little innovation in my opinion, and one that could use Apple's prowess at battery management and aesthetic design.

Fine to keep the wires joining the two earbuds, down to the volume and other controls that exist inline now, plus add the beam forming mics, but then terminate not with a male headphone connector that you must physically plug into your iDevice, but with a tiny Bluetooth transceiver. So you still have a single unit (one earbud won't go missing) with the convenience of inline controls and the advantage of the beam forming mics, but you get to leave your iPhone in your gym bag or, in my case, in my bike bag, with no cable tethering me to it.
I have enough money to last the rest of my life. Unless I buy something. - Jackie Mason
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I have enough money to last the rest of my life. Unless I buy something. - Jackie Mason
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post #14 of 14
Originally Posted by Nostromo1965 View Post
I'd be satisfied if they'd just make a COMFORTABLE pair of earbuds that didn't cost 80 effin' dollars, instead of those painful, hideous plastic ones they currently ship.

 

“Don’t shape your ears that way.”

 
And even then, for $80 you'd expect them to last longer than they do: I've had 3 pairs, and every one had either the left or right bud FAIL after about a year.

 

Are you talking about EarPods or the in-ear headphones?

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
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Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
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