Apple AR glasses or VR headsets may include a switchable audio system that can provide a range of different listening modes, while also incorporating a system that could smoothly blend a real-world view with virtual imagery at speed.
Items like the often-rumored Apple Glass smartglasses or an augmented reality or virtual reality headset have to rely on providing users with convincing visuals and sufficient audio for full immersion. Both elements, however, offer their own unique issue that companies producing head-mounted displays have to conquer.
For audio, there’s a world of difference between the audio needs for AR and smart glasses, and that of VR. While the former may want limited audio and to still be able to hear the rest of the environment, VR use typically relies on blocking out external sounds, leaving just the audio of the virtual world.
Current headsets can accomplish this if they require users to supply their own headphones, but those with built-in audio systems typically don’t offer as much flexibility as a user may want.
In a patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled “Display devices with multimodal audio,” Apple describes head-mounted vision systems with an audio component that can shift between positions on the headset’s support structure.
Apple proposes the audio system could switch between an extra-aural mode, where the speakers of a movable earphone system are held and used a small distance away from the ears, and an intra-aural mode that places the speakers in the ear canal. Under extra-aural, the system would enable external sounds to be more clearly heard, while the second version would do more to impede environmental sounds from being heard by the user.
Switching between the modes, Apple suggests the use of one driver in each earphone, that can change how it projects sound through different ports to match the two different positions. This includes adjusting the power level for the woofer depending on whether it is close to the ear or not, and even a switchable physical element that could alter the movements of sound.