AirPods may automatically adjust audio based on the ear tips you’re using, a new patent suggests
According to the latest patent, titled “Identification of Cushioning Members in Personal Audio Devices,” Apple wants AirPods and AirPods Max devices to be able to identify the different earbud tips or over-the-ear headphone cushions and adjust the audio accordingly.
"For example, an equalizer setting can be selected or modified based on the identification data," reads an excerpt of the patent application. "Hearing-protection settings can be modified, including, e.g., limiting the speaker volume of the earpiece, modifying an active noise cancellation profile for the earpiece, and so on."
How is this identification going to work? The patent mentions a tag system for different earbud tips and headphone cushions. A special tag sensor on the device would be able to read these tags and change the audio settings of the headphones.
"When the cushioning member is attached to the earpiece, the identification tag is brought into proximity with a tag sensor in the earpiece and the earpiece can read the identification tag to determine identification data for the cushioning member."
Apple is searching for different ways to make these tags passive, in other words, that they don’t require power. A possible solution would be to use passive NFC tags or some kind of miniature RFID tags.
Apple may want to enrich its ecosystem with a whole new slate of accessories - think of branded earbud tips and headphone cushions. The logic behind this is that you supposedly need different tips and cushions for different activities. When you go out running you need a tighter fit but when you want to relax on the couch, comfort is the first priority.
As with any patent out there, this tech is far from consumer-ready. Don’t expect “Sports AirPods Max cushions” to start appearing anytime soon. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing idea, and when Apple files patent applications, other companies usually start taking notes.