updated 01:55 pm EDT, Thu August 9, 2007
iPod/iPhone audio patent
Apple has filed a patent potentially indicating that audio recording capabilities may be coming to the iPod and iPhone. The patent posits an equally intriguing ability: passing external sounds through the headphones instead of audio from the device. In other words, a user could flick a switch that would shut off any music or any other audio, and instead pick up a voice or other ambient audio and pass it through the headphones, meaning the listener would not need to remove any earpiece to hear the ambient sound. For example, a jogger approaches an intersection and switches to external audio in order to stay alert while crossing the street. Pieced together, these elements could lead to the ability for a user to be listening to music on their iPod/iPhone, while simultaneously recording ambient sound.
The patent is titled "Presentation of audible media in accommodation with external sound" essentially calls for a device that can control the delivery of sound dynamically. Want to listen to the birds chirping? Flip a switch, and even with in-ear headphones that normally block any external sound, you will hear a clear (even perhaps clearer than with the natural ear) representation of that sound. In practicality, this could mean that even pressing the pause button on an iPod or iPhone would invoke this ambient noise pass-through.
The system would work by picking up ambient noise with a microphone, then amplifying it through the headphones. Said microphone would also be able to record the ambient noise, meaning that you could, for instance, be sitting in a class listening happily to your iPhone/iPod while recording the entire lecture for later playback.