'Apple Glass' may help users navigate with directional audio cues

Future Apple devices ranging from “Apple Glass” to regular iPhones or even “Apple Cars” can use stereo separation to get users to look to where the sound seems to be coming from.

We’re used to Siri telling us when to turn left or right, whether through CarPlay, our AirPods, or just our regular iPhone. This means that we’re also used to pausing podcasts and turning down the volume of music, but now Apple wants to improve all of that. Whether it’s not interrupting us or giving us better directions, future Apple devices could change the destination of what we listen to.

“Spatial Audio Navigation” is a new patent application, which aims to describe how audio can be used to guide users in the real world or with AR and Mixed Reality (MR).

“Conventional navigation applications can provide voice instructions such as ‘turn left’ or ‘turn right’ to direct users to destinations,” the patent application states. “However, a user, for example while walking or cycling, may listen to an audio source (eg, music, audiobook, phone call, etc.) while using a navigation application, and may prefer the audio not to be interrupted by voice instructions. ”

“Also,” he continues, “during a phone call, voice directions can interfere with conversation, and / or conversation can interfere with voice direction.”

So, instead, Apple proposes to use “the directionality and distance of sound played by a binaural audio device to provide navigation guidance to the user.” As long as they are listening in stereo – on “Apple Glass”, headphones or car speakers, for example – then Apple can “thus use the spatial location of the apparent source of a sound to guide the user in a certain direction ”.

“For example, to guide the user on a path while listening to music, the apparent source of the music can be placed in front of the user to guide the user along the path, and moved to the side of the user to invite the user to take a walk on the way, ”the application specifies.

“So the music is not interrupted, and [this provides] a more subtle method of transmitting navigation informationon than conventional navigation applications, ”he continues.

However, it is not enough to ensure that you can listen to the Appleiphonestop podcast without interruption. Apple thinks this space sound system is safer.

“Additionally, psychologically, a user may have a tendency to assume that the voice directions are correct and therefore follow the directions without thinking too much about it, which could cause accidents,” he says. “By using the directionality and distance of sound as an audio signal to guide a user instead of voice directions to indicate to a user, it is up to the user to determine whether it is safe to follow the directional audio signal.”

“A voice does not tell the user to do something (for example, ‘turn left’ or ‘turn right’); instead, the user follows the directional audio signal, ”he continues. “When you follow something like a directional audio cue, a different psychology kicks in when you listen to voice commands.”

Patent detail showing a user turning sideways and all spatial audio adjustment to match

The remainder of the patent application is concerned with the process of changing the position of stereo audio or changing its volume. “[Other] certain aspects of the audio can be attenuated to affect the virtual directionality and distance of the audio, including, but not limited to, frequency and reverb, ”he says.

This application is attributed to six inventors, including Avi Bar-Zeev and Rahul Nair, both of whom have worked on patent applications relating to user gaze tracking in Apple AR.

The patent application also follows a separate but recent application covering a method by which “Apple Glass” could have an audio system that presents sounds as coming from 3D space.

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