Whenever a new patent from Apple is published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the tech blog-o-sphere draws conclusions about what the technology described in it might be used for. This time there’s a patent for noise-canceling technology that can be used in devices that can be placed in the ear. Essentially, it’s a new form of the technology needed to cancel out the noise that’s around the user, which means this could be the perfect AirPods 2 patent.
AirPods 2 patent for noise-canceling technology
The potential AirPods 2 patent was published on Thursday, and Apple is listed as the applicant, while Scott Grinker is the inventor of the technology. The patent is for an “In-ear speaker hybrid audio transparency system.” There is already a host of noise-canceling headphones and even earbuds on the market, although how well the current technology works is certainly up for debate. As such, the challenge for Apple’s potential AirPods 2 patent is setting apart the technology it describes and explaining why it’s different from what the other noise-canceling earbuds do.
Apple’s current AirPods have sold like hotcakes since they were introduced, but this patent would take them a step further by adding noise-canceling features. In fact, this patent would take the AirPods even beyond most of the earbuds that are currently available.
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How the technology in the AirPods 2 patent works
Apple explains that there are currently two different types of earbuds. One type fully seals the opening of the ear canal, and another which purposely lets some ambient sound into the ear canal so that the wearer can hear some of the sound from their environment in addition to whatever they’re listening to. Apple’s patent is designed to combine the best of both types of earbuds by allowing only certain types of ambient sound into the ear canal of the wearer.
The application describes noise-canceling technology that uses “an acoustic or venting valve in the in-ear speaker.” The valve automatically receives a signal to open so that the sound that’s inside the ear canal can exit into the environment surrounding the user. The device than begins converting ambient sound to deliver it into the ear canal. The wearer of the device is then able to hear both the content from the AirPods and the sound that’s around them.
Apple adds automation
However, the sound from the ambient environment is “digitally processed so that certain frequency components have been gain adjusted, based on an equalization profile.” Some define this as audio passthrough, and it’s similar to features offered on some of the more expensive noise-canceling headphones, although still a bit different. One big difference is the addition of automation for the valve, which requires computing capabilities and sensors to determine which types of sound should be allowed to get past the AirPods.
So will this technology be ready for the second edition of Apple’s AirPods? It certainly sounds interesting, but it may be beyond the reach of the next model. We’ll just have to wait and see.