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Apple patents self-adjusting headphones

An Apple patent shows the company is looking into headphones that would automatically adjust sound according to ear shape.

The patent, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published on Thursday, shows headphones that would deliver different sound output levels depending on how the seal of the earphones fit in the user's ear.

[Image: patent_2610058a]

Earbud headphones create a seal in a user's ear that helps reduce outside noise but this works less well when the earbud does not fit properly.

The patent application, which was filed in February, states that the quality of the seals formed between earbuds and a user's ears affects performance.

The filing reads: "For example, satisfactory noise cancellation can become difficult when high-quality seal is not present.

"Poor earbud-to-ear seals can also affect audio quality in other ways. For example, left-right balance (volume) and equalization can be affected by seal quality."

A self-adjusting earphone would measure quality of the seal using built-in headphones and electrical current measurements and would then increase volume to compensate for a poor seal or noisier environments, or reduce volume when outside noise is blocked or in quiet environments.

Fully inserted earphones create a better seal. The patent reads: "Larger gaps will result in poorer seal quality, whereas smaller gaps will exhibit better seal quality."

Earphones would also make balance adjustments to correct audio output for the left and right earbuds.

On the same day, USPTO also published an Apple patent application for a user-specified navigation system that would deliver car travel routes based on crowd-sourcing data, similar to the app Waze, which was bought by Google last month.

The patent application, which was filed in December 2011, read: "In some implementations, a user can provide ratings for routes, streets and/or locations. In some implementations, the user can initiate an alert associated with a location. In some implementations, user-specified ratings and alerts can be included in a route determination. In some implementations, route rating and alert information can be transmitted to other users and/or devices."

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