Apple is working on tech for improving FaceTime audio conference calls using its Beats headphones or AirPods. The company has filed for a patent (number 20180359294) for “intelligent augmented audio conference calling using headphones.”
Multiparty audio conference calls typically include audio signals from individual callers in different locations, such that it may be difficult to recognize who is speaking by voice alone. However, Apple notes that, often, a listener uses a stereo headset to listen to the conversation, and the audio signals may be processed to enhance recognition of the different participants. The company thinks it can improve the process.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “In one aspect herein, a pre-processor receives audio signals for a conference call from individual callers, each of the audio signals associated with corresponding metadata, analyzes the metadata, and associates each of the audio signals with a spatial position in a virtual representation of the conference call based on the analyzation of the metadata.
“A spatial arrangement processor generates a binaural room impulse response associated with the spatial position of each of the audio signals to filter the received audio signals to account for the spatial position associated with each of the audio signals and to account for the effect of the virtual representation of the conference call. A head-tracking controller tracks an orientation of a listener's head using a headset. A binaural renderer produces multi-channel audio data for playback on the headset according to the orientation of the listener's head and the binaural room impulse response associated with the spatial position of each of the audio signals.”
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.