Apple Files Patent for Cutting-Edge Multi-Channel Speaker System

Apple Files Patent for Cutting-Edge Multi-Channel Speaker System Credit: Patently Apple
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Apple filed a patent with the European Patent Office (EPO) covering a multi-channel, user-configurable smart speaker technology that’s loosely based on the company’s upcoming HomePod — albeit functionally advanced in several key ways. Whereas the HomePod was designed as a single-channel audio output device capable of intelligently adapting to its environment in order to provide the best sound to match it, Apple’s new smart sound system elaborates on the HomePod’s technology, describing a broader, multi-channel system that’s designed to intelligently disperse the sound into “separate zones based on the positioning of users, audio sources, and/or speaker arrays” within a room.

Filed in Australia with the EPO and published on July 20 2017, Apple’s ‘Smart Multi-Speaker Audio System Designed for TV Live Streaming’ patent goes on to describe an audio system that’s exclusively designed to work with an Apple TV, or comparable set-top box capable of live streaming digital content like music and movies.

What Makes This Technology Special?

Albeit somewhat ambiguously, the patent outlines two ways in which Apple’s proposed audio system would be advantageous in comparison to conventional, multi-channel sound systems. For starters, while the text is purely technical, one aspect of the invention outlines a method by which the speaker array can determine the parameters within a room and generate audio output based on a “multi-zonal audio beam” configuration. In other words, Apple envisions an audio system comprised of multiple speakers — each of which would be responsible for outputting certain sound elements based on its respective position within a room. The patent describes a system with “one or more audio sources within an audio system, wherein each piece of sound program content is designated to be played in one zone of a plurality of zones within a listening area.” Another vital component of the system is defined as a “central computing device” (an Apple TV, for example), which would be responsible for driving the sounds through their respective channels.

Apple outlines two methods for defining zones within a room, which can be determined by factors like relative speaker and listener position. For example, a zone might be defined as an area where multiple users are seated around the primary source (in this case, a television). Similarly, a secondary zone might be defined as an area within a room where individual listeners are seated in relation to a secondary audio source (a sound bar or subwoofer).

Apple’s invention appears to address the common issues of sound displacement and distortion caused by conventional sound systems,  by creating an all-new audio system that can adapt based on the room’s ever-changing conditions. In this way, Apple could potentially revolutionize the home entertainment center as we know it. But whether this patent will ever evolve into an Apple-branded speaker system we can install in our own homes remains to be seen.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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