Future HomePods and Mac speakers may adjust their audio based on a listener’s location

Future HomePods and Mac speakers might be able to detect where you are in a room and adjust their sounds accordingly. Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,264385) for a “system and method for dynamic control of audio playback based on the position of a listener.”

In the patent filing, the tech giant notes that, typically a user or listener must tune or calibrate a multi-channel audio system to determine an optimal listening position where the best sound presentation can be heard. Calibration of the audio system is based on the locations of the speakers and the equalizer and balance control settings. Once determined, the optimal listening position does not change unless the listener re-calibrates the audio system for a different optimal listening position. 

HomePod patent.png

However, with computer systems and other audio systems, listeners can perform multiple tasks during audio playback that result in them moving away from the optimal listening position. The quality of the audio playback is then reduced and the listening experience diminished for the listener when the listener is located in a position different from the optimal listening position. Apple says that what’s needed is a fixed optimal listening position to improve the “enjoyment a listener can receive from a multi-channel audio system.”

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “An optimal listening position for the multi-channel audio sound system is determined. A listening area and other audio playback controls may also be defined or modified by a listener. During subsequent audio playback, an imager captures images of at least a portion of the listener. “When the listener has moved to a position that is different from a previous position, one or more audio parameters are adjusted for at least one channel in the multi-channel audio system in order to reposition the initial or previous optimal listening position to the current position of the listener. When the listener moves outside the listening area, an out of bounds response is initiated to disable or control the audio playback until the listener moves to a position within the listening area.”

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.