Apple wants to make it easier to set up speaker systems with its various devices

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20170272886) for “optimizing the performance of an audio playback system with a linked audio/video feed.” The goal is to make it easier to set up speaker systems with various iOS, macOS and tvOS devices. The patent also may refer to Apple’s upcoming HomePod speaker, based on some of the accompanying images.

Speaker arrays may reproduce pieces of sound program content to a user through the use of one or more audio beams. For example, a set of speaker arrays may reproduce front left, front center, and front right channels for a piece of sound program content (e.g., a musical composition or an audio track for a movie). Apple says that although speaker arrays provide a wide degree of customization through the production of audio beams, conventional speaker array systems must be manually configured each time a new user and/or a new speaker array are added to the system. 

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This requirement for manual configuration may be burdensome and inconvenient as speaker arrays are added to a listening area or moved to new locations within the listening area. Apple wants to change this.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “An audio system is provided that efficiently detects speaker arrays and configures the speaker arrays to output sound. In this system, a computing device may record the addresses and/or types of speaker arrays on a shared network while a camera captures video of a listening area, including the speaker arrays. The captured video may be analyzed to determine the location of the speaker arrays, one or more users, and/or the audio source in the listening area. 

“While capturing the video, the speaker arrays may be driven to sequentially emit a series of test sounds into the listening area and a user may be prompted to select which speaker arrays in the captured video emitted each of the test sounds. Based on these inputs from the user, the computing device may determine an association between the speaker arrays on the shared network and the speaker arrays in the captured video.”

Of course, 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.