Apple patents audio tech that could prevent you from wearing your headphones the wrong way


TS Evangelist
Staff member

Tech companies are always coming up with strange, intriguing, and ridiculous ideas for future products but most of them never see the light of day. However, from time to time we get a glimpse at some of those projects via the US' patent office.

For example, Apple recently received approval for a patent that describes a "reversible" pair of headphones. If you're not sure what that means, Apple's idea aims to solve a small problem most of us have run into at least once - putting your headphones' left earcup over your right ear, and vice versa.

Apple's proposed headphones would be able to detect which ear each speaker is beaming audio to. The headphones would accomplish this through an array of microphones - when the left earcup is worn over the right ear, the first microphone will be located far away from your mouth. When it's worn correctly, though, a second microphone will be located closer to your mouth.

It's fairly complicated technology for such a simple issue, and one might even say it's overkill. After all, solving this annoyance is usually as easy as taking the headphones off and rotating them 180 degrees.

However, those with symmetrical headphones may not notice the problem right away so Apple's automated solution could be handy from time to time.

As long as this tech is cheap to implement, though, there's little reason Apple couldn't just throw it in a future pair of headphones anyway. However, it's worth noting that this patent's existence is not necessarily proof that it will ever turn into something real - all we can do is speculate.

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TS Evangelist
Meanwhile many other brands of headphone down to and including $5 throwaways solved the problem back in the 1980's by simply printing L & R on the cups, then placing a raised tactile dot on the "L" headphone cup that functions the same way as the raised bumps on "F" and "J" keys on a keyboard, the number 5 on a 0-9, *, # phone keypad, the play / pause button on a DVD player remote, etc). Although this allows even blind / partially sighted people (and anyone in the dark) to put them on correctly first time, clearly that simple effectiveness is beneath Apple consumers who need a fix more "exotic" to maintain that edgy social image...


TS Evangelist
If you always wear your headphones wrong, eventually you'll start to put your left shoe on your right foot and your right shoe on your left foot and you'll look really clumsy and you won't be cool.
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The earcup on my headphones are roughly ear shaped ovals angled to match the ear. Pretty tough to put them on wrong. Like putting wrong shoe on wrong foot, but I've seen it happen (once)