Apple Explores Bone Conducting, Noise Cancelling EarPod Design

Apple has a new patent application (via AppleInsider) that describes incorporating bone conduction tech into its EarPods, as well as packing them with sensors for better noise cancellation.

The sensors include accelerometers to detect vibration in a wearer’s skull while they’re talking, and is able to then identify speech and filter out other ambient noises that classify as non-vocal. Apple also uses multiple microphones in the patent, to help better detect voice from either side of the earbud, and there’s a provision for embedding mics throughout the cable to form a kind of beamforming mic array, which is a type of professional mic setup used to capture and isolate hiqh-quality audio.

Information coming form the mics is then combined with the vibrations detected by the bone conducting/accelerometer-based part of the equation, and the combination of the two signals tell the system what to exclude and what to pass on when a user is speaking on their device to a caller on the other end of the line.

Apple also describes various other types of headphones that could use this tech, including single earbuds (like the Motorola Hint), closed headphones (like those made by its new subsidiary Beats) and more.

Apple hasn’t yet introduced any new kinds of EarPods, the headphones it ships with every new iPhone, but it has introduced dual-mic arrays on its mobile devices to pick up audio input more clearly. If it can bring something similar or even more effective to its earbuds, that’s going to be a decent competitive advantage, and should help the company step up its headphone game, which is now expanded to include the Beats line.