Tech

Apple patents surround sound-like technology for a MacBook

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Apple (AAPL) originally applied for the patent in August 2018. On Tuesday, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple the patent for a “system to move virtual sound away from a listener.”

The virtual acoustic system that Apple envisions would immerse people in sound, whether they’re streaming a sporting event or a movie and add to “the feeling of ‘being there,'” according to the patent. It would send noise out at different angles, aiming the audio at specific parts of a room, to create the illusion that the sound isn’t coming from the laptop.

Apple envisions the virtual sound system will make audio appear to be away from the MacBook.

“Given how much people have been talking about the superb sound of the new MacBook it is clear that sound is a focus for Apple,” said Carolina Milanesi, a tech analyst at research firm Creative Strategies. “If you think about the push into content this makes perfect sense: offering the best possible experience for people consuming Apple TV+ content on their Mac.”

Apple does caveat in the patent that in virtual acoustic simulations, there’s “always some imperfection or error” that makes the listener notice the sound is actually coming from the laptop. The sound would be, after all, still coming from the MacBook. The tech giant said it could fix this by exaggerating the reverberation and other settings.

Although Apple won the patent, that doesn’t mean the feature is actually going to appear on MacBooks soon — or at all. Companies like Apple often patent ideas that never make their way to the market.
The idea could be useful for augmented reality and gaming. Games like “Pokémon Go” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” already make virtual creatures appear as if they’re existing in real life, so the far-away sound could add to the illusion. AR hasn’t quite made its way to MacBooks yet, but if and when it does, it could use the sound effects.
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