Apple's over-the-air headphones to borrow HomePod tech to make it reversible

The planned microphone array on the headphones will also help a great deal in noise cancellation.

Apple's HomePod speaker never made it to India but one of its key features happened to be the ability to use microphones to map out open spaces in a room and to adjust the sound output accordingly. A freshly filed patent application now reveals that Apple's long-awaited over-the-year headphones may get the same feature.

 Apples over-the-air headphones to borrow HomePod tech to make it reversible

As per a report by 9To5Mac, the patent suggests the use of the technology referred to as beamforming for two different reasons. Both of which could transform the way we've used headphones all along, making them simpler than ever.

Firstly, beamforming could enable Apple's over-the-ear headphones to be reversible. Instead of having to ensure that we’re putting the headphones on the right way round, the multiple microphone array on the headphone could help the chip inside automatically detect the orientation and adjust the output accordingly. For this, Apple plans of adding as many as five microphones around each earcup.

But how are the microphones really going to do? Well, as soon as you prompt Siri, the headphones can tell which microphone is nearest to your mouth on each earcup, and from this can work out which way around the headphones are being worn. This also means that the earcups will be identically shaped with no odd distortion to fit the right ear.

Apple's diagram for beamforming on headphones. Image: 9To5Mac

Apple's diagram for beamforming on headphones. Image: 9To5Mac

The second use of beamforming on the headphones is to better separate speech from background noise.

An excerpt from the patent reads, "A processor […] may be used to perform voice beamforming towards the user’s mouth to capture the user’s speech and perform noise beamforming away from the user’s mouth to capture environmental noise."

This, in theory, should not only help separate noise while taking voice calls but should also make it easier to prompt Siri in noisy environments, say a gym or a park.

There is no clarity on when we may see the headphone being launched yet. We first heard about it back in February when a report stated that Apple was working on a pair of high-end over-ear headphones. Apple, however, in typical Apple fashion, has strayed away from hinting at anything of the sort so far.

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