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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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In March 2003 a couple of new patents were awarded to Apple. The most descriptive patent filed in July 2002 described a method for to filtering out background noise from two independent microphones -- allowing for improved Speech recognition -- spawning speculation of renewed speech efforts by Apple as well as assistive devices built in to future displays or Macs.

Apple's iSight appears to incorporate at least some of this technology to improve audio capture:

iSight includes a built-in, dual element noise-suppressing microphone that delivers crystal clear audio. The microphone takes in the sound from both microphone elements, then determines which sounds are essential to the conversation with an algorithm that filters out extraneous noise.

 

strider42

macrumors 65816
Feb 1, 2002
1,461
7
it would be cool if apple could find some companies to license such technology, or other technologies they have patents on. I wonder if apple could add additional revenue streams by leveraging their intellicetual properties. I'm sure this and a lot of other stuff they have have loads of applications, even outside of the computing realm. It would be a way to expand the business without having to go outside what they know. I don't know if this technology in particular would work for such a thing, I'm just trying to make a point. instead of simply preventing others from using their ideas, they could sell them the right to do so.
 

rvernout

macrumors member
Jun 23, 2003
57
0
Amsterdam
No patents yet

These are only patent applications yet (i.e. not g r a n t e d patents).

Since 2000 the USPTO is publishing US patent applications in order to comply with the rest of the world. Patent applications are published 18 months after the earliest filing date anywhere in the world, unless the applicant requests earlier publication (which was apparently the case with both of these). Only if no corresponding patent applications are filed outside the US the applicant can request that the application is not to be published (until grant).
 

iJon

macrumors 604
Feb 7, 2002
6,575
200
well ive been impressed with it so far. to an extent. sound quality is great. video is ok, be better if everyone had t3 lines. but ive realized even if video isnt great, i having such a great time talking to a friend, that i forget about it.

iJon
 

rvernout

macrumors member
Jun 23, 2003
57
0
Amsterdam
I wonder whether the two mics in the iSight really contribute anything to suppress noise. According to the specification of the speech recognition patent application the mics should be a substantial distance apart (f.i. on both sides of the screen) which sounds logical.

Any sound engineers around? :confused:
 

Vonnie

macrumors regular
Apr 13, 2003
138
0
Originally posted by strider42
it would be cool if apple could find some companies to license such technology, or other technologies they have patents on. I wonder if apple could add additional revenue streams by leveraging their intellicetual properties. I'm sure this and a lot of other stuff they have have loads of applications, even outside of the computing realm. It would be a way to expand the business without having to go outside what they know. I don't know if this technology in particular would work for such a thing, I'm just trying to make a point. instead of simply preventing others from using their ideas, they could sell them the right to do so.

Patents don't work that way for big corporations. Microsoft infringes on a bunch of patents from Apple, but Apple also infringes on a bunch of patents from Microsoft. So, if Apple starts asking money for it, Microsoft will just start asking money too. I mean, IBM has a patent on when you press enter in a spreadsheet, you go to the next cell. These are the sort of patents I'm talking about..

Patents are just meant to keep little competitors little. The companies that make money from patents, are usually very focused on one thing. (a specific algorithm for compression of video for example)
 

rvernout

macrumors member
Jun 23, 2003
57
0
Amsterdam
Patents don't work that way for big corporations. Microsoft infringes on a bunch of patents from Apple, but Apple also infringes on a bunch of patents from Microsoft. So, if Apple starts asking money for it, Microsoft will just start asking money too. I mean, IBM has a patent on when you press enter in a spreadsheet, you go to the next cell. These are the sort of patents I'm talking about..

Not very likely that any infringement takes place. More likely that the patented features are licensed for a reasonable fee, or that they exchange licenses at no costs (cross-licensing).
 

Wardofsky

macrumors 65816
Aug 6, 2002
1,194
0
I remember now.

They came out and we all thought this was going to be new displays with 2 mics at each end.

Now the iSight has it.
 

strider42

macrumors 65816
Feb 1, 2002
1,461
7
Originally posted by Vonnie
Patents don't work that way for big corporations. Microsoft infringes on a bunch of patents from Apple, but Apple also infringes on a bunch of patents from Microsoft. So, if Apple starts asking money for it, Microsoft will just start asking money too. I mean, IBM has a patent on when you press enter in a spreadsheet, you go to the next cell. These are the sort of patents I'm talking about..

Patents are just meant to keep little competitors little. The companies that make money from patents, are usually very focused on one thing. (a specific algorithm for compression of video for example)


well, apple licenses 1 click shopping from amazon. thats a stupid patent, but amazon was lucky enough that apple wanted to use it without getting into a whole thing about it. companies license patents from each other all the time. And apple has plenty of technology they could probably license if they tried.

So I totally disagree with your statement about patents just being meant to keep little competitors in line. patents protect intellictual property, no matter what the size of the people using it. every technology that has ever been licensed pretty much is patented. microsoft licenses stuff, IBM does, oracle, apple, everyone licenses patented technology when its in their interests not to develop something on their own or when someone has exactly what they want (one click shopping)
 

mymemory

macrumors 68020
May 9, 2001
2,495
-1
Miami
Originally posted by rvernout
I wonder whether the two mics in the iSight really contribute anything to suppress noise. According to the specification of the speech recognition patent application the mics should be a substantial distance apart (f.i. on both sides of the screen) which sounds logical.

Any sound engineers around? :confused:

I'm one.

There are several ways to cancel background noise, I would be surprise if a computer company creates a new way while the audio industry have been working on that for at list 60 years or more.

There are several microphones out there with all kind of technologies to cancel ambient noise, that very new thing Apple is looking for is called "Polar Patterns" and it have been used successfully since WW2 when airpilots had to communicate from their planes to other pilots or to the ground, How do you think they cancelled the ambient noise in their big propeller planes?

Any way, the problem that Apple faces is not canceling any noise to isolate a specific audio signal, the problem is that the users can not place that microphone any where in the room or even in front of the computer because to isolate a signal (in this case human voice) you need to "caustically" take voice and noise and change the phase of the noise to cancelled itself leaving the voice intact, that is something that many microphones do but each microphone have their own specifications the users have to fallow to achieve that, other wise it won't work. There is a microphone for an specific environment and use. The problem Apple is facing is that the same mic have to work in my room and in a noisy office or who knows where else placed at many different distances from the subject and work. Good luck.

The only way I see is to have a pure reference of the user voice inside the computer to campared later, but still computers are not good isolating signals, for them everything is just one big wave form, so, you will need to isolated acustically from the microphone. No wonder that technology is not in full use today. It is a big pain to develop.

Capish?
 

rvernout

macrumors member
Jun 23, 2003
57
0
Amsterdam
I suppose that the mics in the iSight are located behind each other (seen from the user), and that signals that show no or minimal phase shift are filtered out, as they are coming from aside, above or beneath. It would however pass noise coming from the back, opposite the user.

In the speech recognition system the mics are located next to each other (seen from the speaker), and I suppose signals that do show a phase difference are filtered out, as they are coming from aside. It would however also pass noise coming from above, beneath or behind.

Or am I on the wrong track? :confused:
 

mrdeep

macrumors member
Jun 23, 2003
78
0
Woah, I think they really might have speech recognition stuff planned.

They have microphones that lend themselves to speech recognition, and they its on a camera that they could use for lip reading.
 

e-coli

macrumors 68000
Jul 27, 2002
1,869
845
I remeber when everyone thought this was going to be an Apple branded digital camera. And someone even jokingly called it the iSight.

Buy that man a beer. ;)
 

Thom_Edwards

macrumors regular
Apr 11, 2003
240
0
cell phones

Originally posted by strider42
it would be cool if apple could find some companies to license such technology, or other technologies they have patents on. I wonder if apple could add additional revenue streams by leveraging their intellicetual properties. I'm sure this and a lot of other stuff they have have loads of applications, even outside of the computing realm. It would be a way to expand the business without having to go outside what they know. I don't know if this technology in particular would work for such a thing, I'm just trying to make a point. instead of simply preventing others from using their ideas, they could sell them the right to do so.

a friend of mine was working for a startup doing similar tech for cellphones a year or so ago. (the economy ate up the company...) they were trying to filter out all frequencies except those that the human voice used. of course it was *way* more in depth than just that, but that is it in a nutshell. they weren't using two mics--only algorithms and a dsp chip. i got to tour the office and such there in san fran. really fascinating to see and hear them talk about it.

too bad it never worked out for them and my friend. they might could have licensed this to a lot of people, including apple (even though that is mainly just speculative and wishful thinking). so maybe apple branching out and working with their cell phone buddies could pay off in more than just iSync...
 

e-coli

macrumors 68000
Jul 27, 2002
1,869
845
Originally posted by mrdeep
Woah, I think they really might have speech recognition stuff planned.

They have microphones that lend themselves to speech recognition, and they its on a camera that they could use for lip reading.

That would be super nice if they could actually get it to work. I've yet to see a computer voice recognition program that works well. Or at least works well enough to ditch the mouse.
 

BaghdadBob

macrumors 6502a
Apr 13, 2003
810
0
Gorgeous, WA
I'm not sure why they're investing so much into trying to get the recognition to work from a mic that is 18-24 inches away. Wouldn't a bluetooth headset be easier?

I really hope they're onto something, but it just seems like a waste.

Anyway, as far as good speech recognition goes, it's out there, my fianceé's friend has been using it for years, and she finds it highly effective. It's used as a total substitute for typing, an accomodation her employer had to make due to her developing carpel (sp?) tunnel syndrome.

Still, it requires training, and I don't know if anyone is going to develop really effective speech recognition software anytime soon that doesn't.
 

neutrino23

macrumors 68000
Feb 14, 2003
1,850
343
SF Bay area
How might this be different from a "shotgun" microphone?

I would guess that both microphones are somewhat directional and that one points roughly towards the speaker and one doesn't. I've done background suppression work in other areas. If I were trying to do it here I think I would have the software monitor both microphones for a long time, find the quiet times when both microphones pretty much track each other and use that to calibrate how much of the background signal to subract from the voice signal.

A head set would be OK, but it is not as casual to use as just talking towards the screen. Actually, you could use a headset with iChat if you so desired.
 

druggedonions

macrumors newbie
May 6, 2003
21
0
Originally posted by rvernout
I suppose that the mics in the iSight are located behind each other (seen from the user), and that signals that show no or minimal phase shift are filtered out, as they are coming from aside, above or beneath. It would however pass noise coming from the back, opposite the user.

In the speech recognition system the mics are located next to each other (seen from the speaker), and I suppose signals that do show a phase difference are filtered out, as they are coming from aside. It would however also pass noise coming from above, beneath or behind.

Or am I on the wrong track? :confused:

Not on the wrong track at all.
If you are sitting comfortably I will begin.

[audiophile] If you have a stereo signal and reverse the phase of one side then sum them (play them back through one speaker or them both through two speakers) one will cancel the other out. So what appears in both the original signals will have gone. (This is how some Kareokee machines work)

So working on this principle having two matched mics, and reverseing the phase of one of them, suming them together you are left the surrounding (ambient noise). If you then reverse the phase of this and sum it with the sum of the original signals you will cancel out the ambient noise. Et voila. You're left with a signal that is free from background noise.[/audiophile]
edited: to try and make this post shorter
 

pianojoe

macrumors 6502
Jul 5, 2001
457
19
N 49.50121 E008.54558
Originally posted by druggedonions

So working on this principle having two matched mics, and reverseing the phase of one of them, suming them together you are left the surrounding (ambient noise). If you then reverse the phase of this and sum it with the sum of the original signals you will cancel out the ambient noise. Et voila. You're left with a signal that is free from background noise.[/audiophile]
edited: to try and make this post shorter

Brilliant. But I feel it's much easier than that:

Take two mics pointing in slightly different positions, find criteria (and an algorithm) to analyze the signals for background noise, and take the signal from the mike that has less background noise.
 

tizza

macrumors regular
Jun 23, 2003
153
0
Brisbane, Australia
Originally posted by pianojoe
Brilliant. But I feel it's much easier than that:

Take two mics pointing in slightly different positions, find criteria (and an algorithm) to analyze the signals for background noise, and take the signal from the mike that has less background noise.

This approach assumes you have highly directional microphones and that indeed your background noise is highly localized. Normally background noise, such as that of computer fans or airconditioning etc, is pretty omni-directional, so simply taking the mic with the least noise won't achieve much. That is why, the best approaches attempt to charcaterize the noise component and attempt to subtract it from the original signal.
 

rainman::|:|

macrumors 603
Feb 2, 2002
5,438
2
iowa
Originally posted by pianojoe
Brilliant. But I feel it's much easier than that:

Take two mics pointing in slightly different positions, find criteria (and an algorithm) to analyze the signals for background noise, and take the signal from the mike that has less background noise.

yes but you're not sampling and analyzing both inputs so you won't get the benefit of phase coupling at all... which is presumably how this mic works... by accepting sounds only generated from a specific direction...

then the software probably uses a lossy voice compressor to take out a lot of unnecessary sounds... leaving you with vocal bands directly in front of the microphone. Not audiophile quality background cancellation, but a lot better than normal (and they're not selling this feature too hard either, so it's kind of a perk)

pnw
 
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