Future AirPods and AirPods Pro may tell you if they’re not sitting in your ears for the best audio, as evidenced by a newly granted patent (number 10,932,062) for “ultrasonic proximity sensors, and related systems and methods.”
In the patent filing, Apple notes that sound quality and other measures of performance for an audio accessory can vary depending on the environment in which the audio accessory is being used. For example, perceived sound quality can deteriorate if an in-ear earphone is not well-seated in a user’s ear.
Apple wants the AirPods and AirPods Pro to alert you if they’re not well-seated. That way you can properly “seat” them — or hand the audio off to another device, such as a HomePod or HomePod mini.
Here’s the summary of the invention: “An ultrasonic proximity sensor can determine one or more characteristics of a local environment. For example, the sensor can emit an ultrasonic signal into a local environment and can receive an ultrasonic signal from the local environment. From a measure of correlation between the emitted and the received signals, the sensor can classify the local environment.
“By way of example, such a sensor can assess whether an in-ear earphone is positioned in a user’s ear. A media device in communication with the sensor can transmit an audio signal to the earphone for audio playback responsive to a determination by the sensor that the earphone is in the user’s ear and can redirect the audio signal to another playback device responsive to a determination by the sensor that the earphone is not in the user’s ear. Related and other aspects also are described.”