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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today published a patent application filed by Apple in November 2012 (via AppleInsider), detailing a version of Apple's Earbuds that would smartly detect when two users are sharing the same earphone set and in-turn switch audio to single- or multi-user mode.

The headphones would use a variety of sensors, including an "angle sensor configured to measure an angle at the Y-junction of a cable associated with the pair of headphones," to determine in real-time whether the device was being used by more than one person. The Y-junction strain detector would measure the widening gap between the point where the headphones split into buds for the right and left ear, measuring whether to readjust the audio for two users as the gap widens or just one when it stays the same.

earphone-patent-800x611.jpg

Interestingly, the patent also details a possible way that two users would not only be able to listen to the same music with better quality on a single pair of headphones, but listen to completely different songs at the same time. Other options are portrayed in the patent for helping to detect a change between user count, ranging from basic mechanical switches to measuring precise angle alignment of a pair of headphones using light transmission and fiber optic cables.

Given that the patent application was filed over two years ago and Apple has yet to release earphones with the proposed technology, it is unlikely the company has plans to do so. Still, as a response to a common use of one of Apple's products in the wild, today's patent is definitely an interesting glimpse into the way the company observes unexpected uses of even its most simple creations.

Article Link: Earphones That Detect Sharing by Multiple Users Proposed in Apple Patent
 

JackANSI

macrumors 6502a
Feb 3, 2011
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And the record industry would love for this to be twisted into "stop playing and ask for more money if you want to share a song on the same pair of headphones" ;)
 

Yakibomb

macrumors 6502
May 13, 2014
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Cape Town
Cant see how well this would work in the real world, my earphones are often tangles at parts above the Y-junction and it would be pretty annoying if the volume kept changing due to that
 
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teslo

macrumors 6502a
Jun 9, 2014
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Cant see how well this would work in the real world, my earphones are often tangles at parts above the Y-junction and it would be pretty annoying if the volume kept changing due to that

agreed. not only that, but i feel like most people avoid this 'stretch' almost instinctually, usually positioning themselves side by side with their heads close so there is no tension. because it's annoying.. i don't see this being very practical at all, which is usually the case when a manufacturer assumes people all behave in a certain way.
 

Salvor Hardin

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Jun 24, 2013
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And the record industry would love for this to be twisted into "stop playing and ask for more money if you want to share a song on the same pair of headphones" ;)

Microsoft filled a patent for doing this with movies at home using Kinect. Thankfully nothing still hasn't come out of that.
 
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Doctor Q

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Sep 19, 2002
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I want my earphones to detect when I'm singing along and drop the voice track from the song. Instant karaoke!
 
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jclardy

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Oct 6, 2008
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I'm guessing the main application would be switching from stereo to mono so both parties hear everything. I'd be worried that moving the headphones around would cause it to switch automatically, or the sensor breaks and your headphones are stuck in mono mode.

The two different songs thing is interesting, but such a tiny use case that I can't see them implementing a UI for it. Multiple volume levels, changes to control center, changes to the audio player in the music app, dialogs asking for which bud to send music to. Overall just way to much UI for something that maybe 1% of users will actually use. Most people sharing earbuds just do so to let someone listen to the same thing they are listening to, otherwise they would just use their own phone for their own music...
 

4jasontv

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Jul 31, 2011
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Let's think about this. You and the person to your left are listening to your music with one set of headphones on. Which ear do you use? Your left ear of course! The person to your right uses their right ear. How would this make the angle at the split large enough to activate the two person mode?
 
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Waxhead138

macrumors 6502
May 18, 2012
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Well, but how smart will it be? Will it be wise enough to know when the two siblings start fighting over it? Maybe it could go into punishment mode.....shuts itself off until they behave again....
 

6836838

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Jul 18, 2011
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So the music industry know exactly who is listening. I suppose they'll end up detecting exactly who is listening based on some funky sensory.

This doesn't sound good for the consumer in the long run.
 

rhoydotp

macrumors 6502
Sep 28, 2006
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maybe, just maybe, this technology or methodology can be used somewhere in future products that short-sighted people like me don't get nor are interested in knowing.
 
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