Apple working on a “Star Trek”-like communicator, new patent shows


Sniffing through the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) archives can yield some really interesting information. The latest find (via appleinsider) is a new patent, filed by Apple back in July, 2021 and titled “Wearable Device with Directional Audio.”

Now, you’re probably looking at the clickbaity article title and wonder what Star Trek has to do with all of this. Fans of the series are aware of the famous communicator badge, used by the crew members of USS Enterprise throughout the series (Star Trek: The next generation), and it’s been every nerd’s dream to brough such a device to the real world.

Let’s check out what the patent documents say: “A wearable device can provide an audio module that is operable to provide audio output from a distance away from the ears of the user. For example, the wearable device can be worn on clothing of the user and direct audio waves to the ears of the user.”

The above description suspiciously reminds us of the Star Trek badge, and to make matters even better (or worse, as it’s just a patent filing), the drawing in the patent documents reiterates the notion that Apple is trying to make something similar to the sci -fi prop from the 80s (the part about wearing this thing on your clothes).

The only difference is that on the drawing the described device is worn on the user’s neckline, rather than as a badge. But this is clearly tweakable. Apple will deliver audio to the user via “a parametric array of speakers that limit audibility by others,” to maintain the privacy of the content.Apparently, Apple wants people to be able to ditch regular headphones and earbuds as they can be “somewhat obtrusive to wear and can inhibit the user’s ability to hear ambient sounds or simultaneously interact with others near the user.”

There’s also a mention for an array of sensors inside the communicator device. “Such sensors can be configured to sense substantially any type of characteristic such as, but not limited to, images, pressure, light, touch, force, temperature, position, motion, and so on. By further example, the sensor can be a bio-sensor for tracking biometric characteristics, such as health and activity metrics, heart rate, electrocardiographic (ECG) characteristics, galvanic skin resistance, and other electrical properties of the user’s body.”

This is pretty cool, and would allow your ship medic to keep an eye of your vitals during critical missions… or just feed your smartphone with useful biometrics about your exercises, health, etc. But the former sounds way more exciting!

Finally, this is not just a simple bluetooth speaker, attached to your collar (or T-shirt). The patent goes on to say that “the wearable device can further include microphones and/or connections to other devices that facilitate calibration of the audio module of the wearable device.”Of course, we’re talking about a concept here – it’s just a patent paper, a reassurance that a good idea won’t be stolen by somebody else. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if Apple released the iBadge next year, capable of focusing audio directly to your ears, and reminding you to take your phaser… sorry, umbrella before you head out? Beam me up, Scotty!

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