Apple’s been rumored to be working on a pair of its own over-ear headphones for a while now, but details on the rumored product have been pretty slim beyond the basic concept. A newly granted patent, titled “System and method for automatic right-left ear detection for headphones,” may hint at what Apple is planning, though. It describes a pair of headphones that would be reversible, automatically adjusting which ear cup is the right or left based on how you put them on, via 9to5Mac.
The patent claims describe a system where each ear cup would have five microphones on it to be used to determine which ear cup is which through a variety of complicated methods involving comparing relative microphone inputs.
Once the headphones have determined their placement, the patent also describes how the headphones could use those mic arrays to pull off a similar beamforming trick as the HomePod, using one mic to capture your voice and a second one to cancel out background noise so that you can be clearly heard.
The patent only focuses on the technology that’s used to determine which ear cup is on your right ear for voice detection. But, presumably, Apple could apply the reversible nature to play back the proper right / left stereo signals to the proper ear once it’s already established which ear is which.
But, as is always the case with Apple patents, there’s no indication that the company will actually use this technology in a product. We don’t even know whether Apple’s over-ear headphones are real. But if they do show up, it’s possible they’ll have some neat tricks.