Apple has filed for a patent (number US 20230104111 A1) for “determining a virtual listening environment.” The tech giant wants its audio devices to be able to adapt to different environments.
About the patent filing
In the patent filing Apple notes that a user may listen to an audio work in various locations, and each an have a different acoustic environment. For example, a user can listen to an audio or audio visual work in a car, on a grass field, in a classroom, on a train, or in the living room.
Each acoustic environment surrounding a user may carry with it expectations of how sound is to be heard, even if the sound is being produced by headphones worn by a user. Apple wants its devices — including AirPods and Beats headphones/earphones — to be able to have functionality similar to the human ear.
Humans can estimate the location of a sound by analyzing the sounds at their two ears. This is known as binaural hearing and the human auditory system can estimate directions of sound using the way sound diffracts around and reflects off of our bodies and interacts with our pinna. Apple wants its audio devices to be able to use microphones and a spatial audio reproduction system to offer similar functions.
Summary of the patent filing
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent filing: “One or more acoustic parameters of a current acoustic environment of a user may be determined based on sensor signals captured by one or more sensors of the device. One or more preset acoustic parameters may be determined based on the one or more acoustic parameters of the current acoustic environment of the user and an acoustic environment of an audio file comprising audio signals that is determined based on the audio signals of the audio file or metadata of the audio file.
“The audio signals may be spatially rendered by applying spatial filters that include the one or more preset acoustic parameters to the audio signals, resulting in binaural audio signals. The binaural audio signals may be used to drive speakers of a headset. Other aspects are described and claimed.”