Beam me up, Tim. Apple has filed for a patent (number 20220095049) for a “wearable device with directional audio” that sounds remarkably like — as AppleInsider notes — the communication badges in the “Star Trek” series.
About the patent filing
In “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TNG) and later series, Starfleet officers and enlisted personnel wear small communicator badges on their left breast. These devices are in the shape of the Starfleet insignia and are activated with a light tap.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that audio headsets have acoustic speakers that sit on, over, or in the ear of the user. They can connect to other devices operate as sources of audio signals that are output by the speakers. Some headsets can isolate the user from ambient sounds and even provide noise-cancellation features.
However, Apple says that many audio headsets are somewhat obtrusive to wear and can inhibit the user’s ability to hear ambient sounds or simultaneously interact with others near the user. The tech giant’s alternative: a wearable device can be worn on clothing of the user and direct audio waves to the ears of the user.
Summary of the patent filing
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent filing with technical details: “A wearable device can provide an audio module that is operable to provide audio output from a distance away from the ears of the user. For example, the wearable device can be worn on clothing of the user and direct audio waves to the ears of the user. Such audio waves can be focused by a parametric array of speakers that limit audibility by others.
“Thus, the privacy of the audio directed to the user can be maintained without requiring the user to wear audio headsets on, over, or in the ears of the user. The wearable device can further include microphones and/or connections to other devices that facilitate calibration of the audio module of the wearable device. The wearable device can further include user sensors that are configured to detect, measure, and/or track one or more properties of the user.”