Apple Files 'Ear Presence' Sensor Patent

Fresh off of Apple's purchase of Beats, the tech giant has filed a patent for sensors that can detect whether the headphones are actually being worn, and respond accordingly. The patent, published Thursday, discusses using a few different sensors to figure out how far away the intended listener is, and stop playing if, for example, they were to quickly remove their headphones.

The idea is to remove the input of the user typically needed to cut sound to a pair of headphones or earbuds. Everyone who listens to music on the go is familiar with the awkward situations that can be caused by pulling off a headset without pausing. This would cut out that extra step.

While the purchase of Beats and the patent application seem conveniently coincidental, it's unlikely they were planned to be so. Patent applications usually take a few years, and indeed, this patent, titled "Electronic Devices and Accessories with Media Streaming Control Features" was filed back in 2012. With this patent, it's possible that Apple could now add some proprietary functionality to their devices, which has always been one of the company's biggest strategies. On Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that he felt the partnership with Beats would allow them "to create the most innovative music products and services in the world," and this looks like a strong first step.

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  • soundping
    I imagine it's just a pressure switch.
  • de5_Roy
    the header is kinda misleading. :pt1cable: it hints that the sensor(s) will detect the presence of ear on people or things with ears and enable apple to troll any kind of facial or biometric recognition technology vendor.
  • InvalidError
    If I took a few minutes to think about it, I could come up with at least a dozen ways to achieve this.

    Personally, I do care about this "feature" since I do not turn my earphones' volume high enough to worry about others being able to hear what I am listening to when I remove them. When I do crank the volume higher than usual, it is usually because my surroundings are at least that much noisier so I still would not need to worry about being heard.

    I suppose it is a perfect fit for those people who blast their ears so loud you can hear their music across the hall in the bus/train/subway/restaurant/etc. - spare them the trouble of pausing their music when people interrupt them to ask to turn it down because it is so freakin' loud.