New Apple Patent Describes AirPods You Don't Put In Your Ears

It's possible that in the future, Apple may release AirPods that don't even need to go in your ears. A patent application, recently submitted by Apple, has been unearthed, and it's packed full of interesting insights into a product the company may be developing as we speak. Titled "Wearable Device with Directional Audio," the application - spotted by PatentlyApple – describes a device that lets you listen to music without cutting you out from what's going on around you.

In the submitted patent, Apple briefly notes what the current experience of using audio headsets is like. Apple's own AirPods, while iconic, are not without flaws, although these flaws often come with a good upside. Apple describes such devices as acoustic speakers that sit either on the ear, over the ear, or in the ear, and they connect to other devices in order to produce sound that then travels directly from the speakers to your ears. The downside of this can be that having your ears blocked by earbuds can result in not hearing ambient noises.

Being completely cut off from the outside world can be a dangerous thing when wearing a pair of earbuds. Noise-canceling features are great when you just want to tune out, but when you're out for a run in an urban area, it's better to hear the sounds around you. The same is true if you often have people coming up to you to talk to you — constantly having to remove your AirPods is a nuisance. It seems that Apple may be working on a fix to all of these problems.

Apple's patent may never make it to market

The new invention is a wearable audio device that is capable of delivering sound to your ears without you having to wear it anywhere close to your face. There is an attached image that shows the device attached somewhere near the collar of the user's shirt, with sound waves still reliably reaching their ears. At first glance, it looks obnoxious — the equivalent of playing music loudly on your phone speakers while on public transport. However, if Apple's patent is to be believed, it won't be all that bad.

The audio waves produced by this ear-free AirPods dupe will be focused by a parametric array of speakers, built in such a way that limits the noise that reaches other people while still remaining loud and clear for the user. It's hard to imagine how this can be possible, but similar systems already exist, such as in audio sunglasses. The difference is that here, the sound is expected to travel a much larger distance, be it from the collar of your shirt or a nearby pillow.

According to the pattern, the parametric array of speakers will radiate beams composed of sound waves directed toward the user's ears. Beamforming will allow the array to also simulate a directional microphone, meaning that the device, much like AirPods, will support calls as well as listening to music, isolating your voice from the environmental sounds around you.

You can review the patent for yourself if you're familiar with such technicalities. If not, rest assured that Apple is very likely to divulge more about the way this tech works should it eventually hit the market. On that note, keep in mind that not every patented product is made and then sold, so for now, make sure not to lose your AirPods — you may need them for a while yet.