Apple invention turns Lightning headphones into smart walkie-talkies

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2016
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published a somewhat unusual Apple invention detailing a communications platform that ditches cellular in favor of direct, point-to-point network technology.


Source: USPTO


Apple's patent application for "Point-to-point ad hoc voice communication" describes a mode of communication much more intimate -- and less ambitious in function -- than the company's iPhone product line.

Specifically, the invention outlines a headset capable of connecting with other devices of the same type via wireless ad hoc networks, also known as peer-to-peer or point-to-point links. Packed with a typical assortment of audio hardware including a microphone and speaker, Apple's proposed headset also features a communications module that allows it to interface with other units in close proximity.

In some embodiments, the headset might also connect via Lightning or 3.5mm jack to a mobile device, opening the door to app-driven solutions. Such device setups are identical or closely related to currently shipping stereo headphones with built-in microphone and remote control modules, Apple's gratis EarPods being a valid example.




Interestingly, Apple eschews support for distributed communications networks like cellular and satellite, instead opting for direct wireless connections facilitated through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other similar protocol. Less functional than a cell network, cutting out intermediary hops does have its advantages, the most apparent being extremely low-latency communications.

Further, users in some scenarios would be better served by a direct, low-latency connection. For example, two friends talking to each other in a noisy room would experience a temporal discord between audio signals if relying on their cellphones. It's these situations, when users are close enough to see each other's body gestures, that direct ad hoc communications are preferable, Apple says.

A variety of ideal systems are referenced in today's exhaustive patent application -- drafted by an engineer who previously worked for German audio giant Sennheiser -- but the document consistently returns to an embodiment best described as a greatly enhanced walkie-talkie.




Using a combination of modern wireless technology, advanced hardware and complex software, Apple is able to revitalize a decades-old idea. For example, the proposed system might present a GUI on a connected touchscreen-enabled device to indicate nearby users with whom a direct link can be established. Tapping on a user icon is a marked improvement over dialing a phone number or browsing through a stored contacts list.

A digital communications suite provides enhancements like signal encryption and multi-user conference calling. Ambient noise can also be filtered out through the application of specialized software.

As with all Apple patents, it's not clear whether the company plans to implement such technology into a shipping product anytime soon. However, aside from the obvious iOS device use case, the ad hoc system would be a good fit for Apple's own Apple Stores, who currently use traditional two-way radios to facilitate communication between floor staff and those working back of store.

Apple's advanced walkie-talkie patent application was first filed for in November 2014 and credits Esge B. Andersen and Cedrik Bacon as its inventors.
justadcomics

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,979member
    And this is why I think we will see "siriPod" a wearable communicator badge not a set of speakers.
    radarthekat
  • Reply 2 of 18
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    Seems a bit weird to do this within the headset instead of the iOS device; how would you select who to talk to?  I've thought before that direct wifi audio connection to other iOS devices within range or on the same network would be a cool addition for finding people in a crowd, or as an intercom-like presence-aware arrangement for a big house or company, especially when out of cellular service. It could work in a similar way to AirDrop, and/or integrated into the Contacts and Phone apps.

    There's an app called Firechat which does this for messaging, but would be better if it was integrated into the main Messages app, and with audio options (video too? No reason why not!)
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 3 of 18
    ApllerrApllerr Posts: 2member
    Would be neat for a real-time Siri translator. Bablefish here we come. 
    justadcomics
  • Reply 4 of 18
    applesauce007applesauce007 Posts: 1,687member
    Very interesting.  The user interface will make or break the idea.
    Time will tell.
  • Reply 5 of 18
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,825member
    This would solve a lot of conversational problems on any single channel device that switches between transmit and receive like a cellphone or walkie talkie. Low latency is great, but dual channel, simultaneous transmit/receive would be killer; just like a real conversation, you can talk over each other!

    Not sure if BT devices are single channel, but I expect so. Maybe Apple can build custom dual channel BT devices for all of their audio products, and Siri would be awesome with that capability.

  • Reply 6 of 18
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,571moderator
    I want group speak on this,like the old telephone party line.  Also, I need range.  I want this built into motorcycle helmets.  Range could be extended somewhat by relaying among all the connected devices that are part of a group chat session.  But still,mor communicating while on a group motorcycle ride, you'd need for it to be able to switch to cellular when needed to keep everyone connected as the group spreads out.

    i also have toyed with the idea that iBeacon technology (every iPhone can not only interact with iBeacons, but can also be one) could be used to connect people via preset parameters.  For example,moire going to an industry trade show and would be interested to meet others who have interest or expertise in your specific specialty.  You arrive at the trade show, you're walking around, and you are alerted that there's someone there who matches your preset filters, and offers to connect you, perhaps using the mode described in this article.  You're at a car event and you've indicated that you are interested in buying a '67 Camaro.  As you're walking around, you are alerted there's someone there with one for sale, and you're offered to connect, or just swap info for later connection.  The possibilities are endless.
    caliafrodrijustadcomics
  • Reply 7 of 18
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,234member
    Is there any point in patents nowadays?! Everyone seems to just do whatever the hell they want, with total disrespect for IP.
    cali
  • Reply 8 of 18
    wandersowanderso Posts: 116member
    At our hospital, we already use a wireless wallkie talkie system called Vocera. This works over our private wifi network. If someone wants to call another nurse for example, they simply touch a button, the system chimes and they verbally say who they want to call. (There is a full voice prompt option without pressing the button as well)  It calls the person they want, hands free and it allows for full duplex communication. The user who has an incoming call receives an announcement from the system of who is calling and they can accept or reject the call simply with their voice.  This allows medical folks to talk without needing to touch anything. (Important in keeping things sterile). Group conversations are also possible as are announcements and so forth.  This has existed since before Apple introduced Siri. It is very reliable and an obvious benefit over cellular or other mobile communication options. 
    patchythepirate
  • Reply 9 of 18
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,087member
    Is there any point in patents nowadays?! Everyone seems to just do whatever the hell they want, with total disrespect for IP.
    I totally agree but someone enlightened me one day with a reasonable answer. Everyone wants to sue Apple for everything, regardless of how meaningless their patents are. Apple needs to get patents on everything they do to make sure they have support when they are sued. Yes, lots of companies, both foreign and in the US, violate patents constantly (Google is the leader), but Apple is the one everyone goes after so Apple needs to protect itself. It doesn't always help but there are some honest judges out there who see what's going on.
    calicwingravpatchythepirate
  • Reply 10 of 18
    The patent may show headphones, but I'm willing to bet this is for their VR headset.
    cwingravcornchipjustadcomics
  • Reply 11 of 18
    This would be very handy for tour guide and assisted listening applications.
    justadcomics
  • Reply 12 of 18
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    rob53 said:
    Is there any point in patents nowadays?! Everyone seems to just do whatever the hell they want, with total disrespect for IP.
    I totally agree but someone enlightened me one day with a reasonable answer. Everyone wants to sue Apple for everything, regardless of how meaningless their patents are. Apple needs to get patents on everything they do to make sure they have support when they are sued. Yes, lots of companies, both foreign and in the US, violate patents constantly (Google is the leader), but Apple is the one everyone goes after so Apple needs to protect itself. It doesn't always help but there are some honest judges out there who see what's going on.
    And that is precisely why Apple patents every little thing they do, no matter how small and insignificant it appears. 
  • Reply 13 of 18
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,527member

    Interestingly, Apple eschews support for distributed communications networks like cellular and satellite, instead opting for direct wireless connections facilitated through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other similar protocol. Less functional than a cell network, cutting out intermediary hops does have its advantages, the most apparent being extremely low-latency communications.


    Au contraire, mon frère ... If you read the patent: 

    [0038] In some embodiments, voice communication via one or more point-to-point ad hoc network links can enable "conference call" voice communication sessions between users supported by wireless communication devices linked together via the point-to-point ad hoc network link and at least one other device which is linked to at least one of the wireless communication devices via another communication link. For example, referring to the above example where a set of wireless communication devices includes a primary device linked to one or more secondary wireless communication devices via separate point-to-point ad hoc network links, the primary device can be linked to another device via a cellular network link. As a result, communication signals can be exchanged between the other device and the secondary devices via the cellular link between the other device and the primary device and the point-to-point ad hoc network links between the primary device and the secondary devices. The other communication link, which can be referred to herein as a separate communication link, can be understood to encompass any known communication links, including cellular network communication links, network links via a router, satellite communication links, telephonic communication links, radio communication links, etc. 

    So, it is possible to have a Walkie-Talkie-like, multipoint connection that is not limited to only those participants within a short range as the article suggests *.

    * "direct wireless connections facilitated through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other similar protocol"

    Now, think about the possibilities!

    edited May 2016 roundaboutnow
  • Reply 14 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    bdkennedy said:
    The patent may show headphones, but I'm willing to bet this is for their VR headset.
    Ah, for gaming. Interesting.
    justadcomics
  • Reply 15 of 18
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,527member
    I want group speak on this,like the old telephone party line.  Also, I need range.  I want this built into motorcycle helmets.  Range could be extended somewhat by relaying among all the connected devices that are part of a group chat session.  But still,mor communicating while on a group motorcycle ride, you'd need for it to be able to switch to cellular when needed to keep everyone connected as the group spreads out.

    Exactly!

    Anyone with a helmet can be on your wavelength ...  American Football, Hockey ... This could be better than under inflated footballs ;D

    More seriously: Police, Fire Fighters, Rescue Teams, SWAT Teams ...




    edited May 2016 mattinozjustadcomics
  • Reply 16 of 18
    This is more than like something for in store use. As in apple employee to Apple employee. Right now they use some 3rd party communicators to talk to back of the house etc. this would solve that. 
    cornchip
  • Reply 17 of 18
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,979member
    I want group speak on this,like the old telephone party line.  Also, I need range.  I want this built into motorcycle helmets.  Range could be extended somewhat by relaying among all the connected devices that are part of a group chat session.  But still,mor communicating while on a group motorcycle ride, you'd need for it to be able to switch to cellular when needed to keep everyone connected as the group spreads out.

    Exactly!

    Anyone with a helmet can be on your wavelength ...  American Football, Hockey ... This could be better than under inflated footballs ;D

    More seriously: Police, Fire Fighters, Rescue Teams, SWAT Teams ...




    Not to mention Construction workers, Event staff, Television people at sporting event.
    Anyone who wants to build an adhoc communications networks in sound sensitive space.

    But why stop at adhoc? Why not bill it as a replacement to an office PABX system?

    Apple could eat their own dog food here and build the system as a replacement to installing a phone system in the donut given the whole point or a round building is to get people to move and interact. Apple's Business sales strategy to date has been by stealth, maybe it's time for them to openly target business as a growth area.
  • Reply 18 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,509member
    rob53 said:
    Is there any point in patents nowadays?! Everyone seems to just do whatever the hell they want, with total disrespect for IP.
    I totally agree but someone enlightened me one day with a reasonable answer. Everyone wants to sue Apple for everything, regardless of how meaningless their patents are. Apple needs to get patents on everything they do to make sure they have support when they are sued. Yes, lots of companies, both foreign and in the US, violate patents constantly (Google is the leader), but Apple is the one everyone goes after so Apple needs to protect itself. It doesn't always help but there are some honest judges out there who see what's going on.
    You've likely no idea that Apple has very recently partnered with Google and a few others to buy up patents, retain a license to them for themselves and any other partners in the new company and then consider them for sale. It's essentially part two of the Google Patent Purchase Promotion from last year that was more successful than had been anticipated. 
    edited May 2016
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