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Apple is exploring how to create a small, portable speaker which will use beamforming audio to make it clearly audible to the user without disturbing others.
Apple calls a recently published patent application “Directed Sound Wearable Device,” but it's actually “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Essentially, this is how to solve the problem of having your entire away team plus enemy aliens hear your mother calling and asking if you remember your coat or why you forgot your humane AI badge.
“The wearable device may have an audio module capable of providing audio output at a distance from the user's ears,” Apple says. “For example, a wearable device can be worn on a user’s clothing and direct sound waves into the user’s ears.”
All of the patent application illustrations for the wearable device show a speaker attached to a collar around someone's neck. But the descriptions only state that “the wearable device can be worn on the user’s clothing.”
Apple's research into possible new hardware is focusing on how a wearable device could direct sound to the user without disturbing anyone else.
“Such sound waves can be focused using a parametric array of speakers, thereby limiting the audibility of others,” Apple continues. “In this way, the privacy of the audio directed to the user can be maintained without the need for an audio headset to be worn over or in the user's ears.”
Apple objects to headphones because they can be “somewhat intrusive when worn and may interfere with the user's ability to hear surrounding sounds or simultaneously interact with other people close to the user.”
The patent application is definitely not just meant to let you listen to your Apple Music Favorites Mix on the go. It's also for communication.
“The wearable device may further include microphones and/or connections to other devices that facilitate calibration of the wearable device's audio module,” Apple says.
The patent application then adds that such a wearable device may include sensors “that are configured to detect, measure and/or track one or more properties of the user.”