Apple Is Working on Futuristic Wireless Bone-Conducting Earbuds

Apple is awarded a patent for ridiculous, futuristic, and admittedly complicated earbuds. This could be the earbud’s first major redesign since 2012.

The earbuds that come shipped with Apple products such as the iPhone and iPod touch really haven’t changed a whole lot over the years. According to a patent Apple filed in 2014, that was published this week, we could see a huge change to Apple’s earbuds.

The patent describes a “system and method of improving voice quality in a wireless headset with untethered earbuds of a mobile device.” In layman’s terms, it describes a pair of wireless Bluetooth earbuds that uses incredible technology to improve audio quality, microphone input quality, and noise cancellation.

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Each earbud would theoretically contain a set of microphones, as well as an inertial sensor, capable of detecting the vibration “of the users vocal chords modulated by the user’s vocal tract based on vibrations in bones and tissue of the user’s head”.

The microphone in each earbud would detect wind and/or ambient noise through the microphone, and the inertial sensor would detect an acoustic signal based on the user’s vocal chord vibrations. The earbuds would then determine which of the two earbuds is receiving the best signal, and transmit it to the user’s device (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, etc).

As put in Apple’s own words, “generally, the invention relates to improve the voice sound quality in a wireless headset with untethered earbuds of electronic devices by determining which of the earbuds should transmit the acoustic signal and the inertial sensor output to the mobile device.”

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The system would also use the internal mechanisms in each earbud to determine if the earbud was actually in the user’s ear. If, say, the user had the right earbud in, but not the left, the system would detect that and automatically receive vocal input through the right earbud.

According to TechCrunch, Apple filed a similar patent in March of 2013. Although Apple will often file patents for technology that may never see the light of day, this is one patent that seems plausible. Given Apple’s (somewhat) recent acquisition of the Beats Music brand of headphones, and newfound interest in streaming music, we may see these futuristic earbuds in the near future.

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