What if your iPhone could set its own volume? Today, the US Patent & Tradmark Office published an Apple patent application for an intelligent sound sensor that would adjust a device's audio volume level in relation to the ambient sound in its environment. Originally filed in July 2007, the application - prosaically entitled " …
I bet I've seen that technology ages ago somewhere... Anybody remembers?
My car and my satnav already do this.
Well, they do in relation to the speed at which I'm travelling, rather than ambient sound. But it's the same principle, surely?
BMW, Lexus, Porsche and I'm sure others have had this feature on their cars for years. For example, the Lexus SC adjusts audio levels depending on whether the convertible hood is up or down and based on cabin noise. BMWs do it based on speed. Porsche cars (with the Bose upgrade) do it based on internal noise.
The only thing 'new' here is they've shifted the logic and sensor into their device but I'm sure that alone doesn't make it an non-obvious innovation.
Weirdly, my ancient PowerBook already has a "sound sensor"
also known as a frickin' microphone
Far from whiz-bang tech. This has been available in car auto systems for a number of years now.
do the car systems actually listen to the ambient noise and adjust the sound accordingly? or do they just automatically dial-down the volume to what the manufacturers think is a suitable volume for when you're parked?
cos, the Harmon Kardon hifi in my mini does the adjusting volume thing, but i'm sure it sounds a lot quieter when i start the car in a busy car park than it does when i'm at home
for that matter, when i've got the music pumping out full blast on the motorway, and then hit a traffic jam and crawl along at 10mph, it doesn't automatically drop the volume to a level where it's still audible above the other traffic noise
Prior art, indeed!
Back in the mid-Sixties, "Popular Electronics" magazine published a construction article detailing how to homebrew a system that controlled the volume of a car radio based on ambient noise level. And I wouldn't be surprised if the idea goes back to the Forties or Fifties. Apple is a bit late to the table with this one. ;-)
I'm sure I saw...
... Blaupunkt do this many years ago in an in-car audio system.
Still, it's the US patent office we're talking about here, right?
Another apple patent
We really shouldn't be surprised, the only prior art Apple seems to be familiar with is theft of other people's innovation. This has been implemented in Audio A4's for at least 4 years.
First, employ an amazingly sensitive audio device popularly known as the human eardrum. Cost - zero
Then attach a twiddly knob to the sound source and call it... hmmm... I know ... "Volume Control".
Cost - coupla bucks.
Naaah.. it's been done.
Here's another patent idea: A setting switch to get rid of that inane OS X startup sound! It's unbelievable I had to install 3rd-party software for that.
Blaupunkt have done this for ages
See this link: http://www.bluespot.co.uk/stock/bremen.asp
It's about 2/3 of the way down the page, under 'Amplifier Features', called DNC (dynamic noise covering). The US patent office would have to be mad to grant a patent on this.
Watch this space!
yet more prior art
the scala rider bluetooth-headset/intercom-for-motorbikes does this based om ambient noise
I'm sure other headsets do similar.
My old phone had it
My old Nokia 5140i from years ago had it, plus more. From the manual:
Automatic volume control — Select On to automatically set the volume of the earpiece at a certain level that you have set with the volume keys. For example, if the environment is noisy, the earpiece volume is increased, or if the person you are talking to on the phone is speaking very loudly, the volume is decreased.
And what if you get two people with it enabled sitting next to each other playing music? They will both get louder and louder in some kind of loop.
Surely loads of car radios already do this when they increase/decrease the volume in response to the ambient (road/wind) noise and/or speed.
Not only does my car do this for hi-fi volume, but it also does the same thing for the sat nav brightness in relation to the outside light. Oh, and the headlights too. And the hazard warning lights come on if I break REALLY hard.
How can you patent something that has a sensor and reacts to the sensor?
Apple are patent trawling, end of. Next year they'll file a patent for a Human Touch Interface Device that reacts by turning on a device when it senses the press of a human finger. Just you watch...
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