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Future AirPods and AirPods Pro could pack orientation sensors

Future AirPods and AirPods Pro may make sure you’ve got each earbud in the proper ear. Apple has filed for a patent (number 10,524,040) for “headphones with orientation sensors.”

In the patent filing, Apple notes that to ensure satisfactory playback of content through the left and right speakers of a set of headphones, the left and right speakers of many headphones are labeled “left” and “right.” If a user accidentally wears the headphones in the incorrect orientation with the left speaker on right ear and right speaker on left ear, stereo audio playback will be reversed from its expected configuration. 

This can lead to undesirable user experiences such as when a user is listening to a movie soundtrack and action on the right of the screen results in sounds in the user’s left ear. Apple wants to make sure you don’t experience this when it come to AirPods and AirPods Pro.

Here’s the summary of the patent filing: “An electronic device such as a pair of headphones may be provided with ear cups having speakers for playing audio to a user. Capacitive sensor electrodes may be used in capturing capacitive sensor ear images that are processed by a machine learning classifier to determine whether the headphones are being worn in a reversed or unreversed orientation. 

“The capacitive sensor electrodes may include grill electrodes that overlap at least part of a speaker grill, cushion electrodes that make capacitive sensor measurements through ring-shaped ear cup cushions that surround the speaker grills, and ring electrodes. The ring electrodes may be formed from metal traces on a flexible printed circuit. The flexible printed circuit may include a portion that wraps around each speaker grill and that is surrounded by a corresponding one of the cushions.”

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.