Patent report: loudspeaker system, docking station with audio output, more

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product, so here are this week’s patent highlights … 

Two Apple patents relate to audio. Patent number 20160029143 for an “acoustic beacon for broadcasting the orientation of adevice.” Though it’s highly unlikely that the company will enter the loudspeaker market, the invention is for aa method for the orientation of a loudspeaker relative to a listening device is described with the goal of equalizing the sound in a room. 

In the patent, Apple notes that audio output devices (loudspeakers) may include two or more transducers for cooperatively producing sound. Although sound engineers may intend for the audio output devices to be oriented in a particular fashion relative to the listener, this orientation is not always achieved. For example, a listener may be seated off center relative to a linear loudspeaker array. In another example, a circular loudspeaker array may be placed at various angles relative to the listener. By being in a non-ideal position, sounds produced by audio output devices may achieve unintended and poor results. Apple thinks it can do better.

Also involving audio, Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,244,492) for a “docking station with audio output” that would work with iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. It would be a combination charging station, speaker system, and clock. The docking station would support a connection to a portable computing device in either one or two orientations. It would almost certainly use a Lightning connector.

Docking Station Patent.jpg

You may one day be able to wake your iPhone or iPad simply by speaking to it. Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,245,527) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for “speech recognition of a handheld portable device.” This would work via an “auxiliary processor” that monitors your speech to detect a wake-up command.

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,244,253) for a “small form factor high resolution camera.” The goal is to provide high-resolution capture in an even smaller form factor for cameras in iPhones and iPads.

Finally, Apple has applied for yet another patent (number 20160025993) involving in-air gesture recognition that could involve Kinect-like features for the Mac or Apple TV. The invention relates generally to optical projection, and particularly to integrated optical projectors. An image capture assembly captures an image of the pattern that is projected onto the object, and a processor processes the image so as to reconstruct a three-dimensional (3D) map of the object.