Future AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max may sport bone conductor transducers as evidenced by a new Apple patent filing (number 20220076662).
About the patent filing
In the patent filing, Apple notes that (obviously) headphones can include a pair of speakers, each of which is placed on top of a user’s ear when the headphones are worn on or around the user’s head. Similar to headphones, earphones (or in-ear headphones) are two separate audio devices, each having a speaker that is inserted into the user’s ear.
Apple says these wearables provide a convenient method by which the user can individually listen to audio content without having to broadcast the audio content to others who are nearby. However, sound produced by headphones may leak into the ambient environment, broadcasting the audio content to others who are nearby.
Apple says a possible solution is bone conduction transducers. Bone conduction headphones are transducers that convert electrical energy (audio signals) into mechanical wave energy (physical vibrations). They do so with piezoelectric drivers coupled to the listener’s jaw and/or cheekbones. The vibrations extend to the inner ear and are interpreted as sound.
Summary of the patent filing
Here’s Apple’ abstract of the patent filing: “A method for routing audio content through an electronic device that is to be worn by a user. The method obtains a communication and determines whether the communication is private. In response to determining that the communication is private, the method drives a bone conduction transducer of the electronic device with an audio signal associated with the communication. In response to determining that the communication is not private, however, the method drives a speaker of the electronic device with the audio signal.”