Future Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) EarPods may be able to sense when they’re in your ears.
Two patent applications filed by Apple in 2012 were published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Thursday, giving new insights into what the Cupertino, California, tech giant may have planned for its future earphones and headphones.
The patents, titled “Ear Presence Detection in Noise Canceling Earphones” and “Electronic Devices and Accessories with Media Streaming Control Features” describe two systems that can be used to determine whether or not speakers in an earphone are in a user’s ears and switch certain features on and off.
In the first patent, Apple cites using such a feature to activate or deactivate a noise canceling feature in a headphone. In one implementation, Apple describes this sensor feature as being handled through circuitry built into the headphones. In another implementation, Apple off-loads sensor information processing work to circuitry on an electronic device. Apple’s patent description references the use of light sensors or accelerometers as possible solutions for such a patent.
The second patent describes a similar usage case where online streaming services could automatically pause the playing of content after such a sensor detected the removal of earphones from a user’s ear. In this patent implementation, Apple refers to the use of a temperature sensor to detect ear presence.
In both cases, example situations cited by these patents appear to have multiple benefits, such as reducing power usage from noise cancellation features and excessive data usage caused by streaming content via cellular connection.
Apple could possibly use such patents to improve its headphones, such as its signature EarPod headphones, which are bundled with many iOS devices such as the iPhone 5S and iPod Touch. However, such features could also eventually find their way into headphones manufactured by Beats Electronics, which was officially acquired by Apple Wednesday for $3 billion.