Apple is granted a new patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, titled “Optical audio transmission from source device to wireless earphones.” The filing describes a new wireless system to transmit audio from an AR/VR headset to AirPods or Bluetooth headphones.
According to sources and discovered patents, the Cupertino tech giant is developing a mixed reality, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), headset for gaming and watching experiences. Therefore, it makes sense that the company wants to add compatibility between its mixed reality headset and AirPods or Bluetooth headphones to transmit audio. Reportedly, the headset will also support Wi-Fi 6/6E faster wireless connection with low latency to reduce the need for a computer or any other device to operate the device.
Apple might use optical audio transmission technology to improve Bluetooth bandwidth
The filing describes the use of the optical signal to transmit audio between a mixed reality headset or a smartphone and AirPods.
A system that includes an audio source device configured to obtain audio data of at least one audio channel of a piece of program content. The audio source device has an optical transmitter for transmitting the audio data as an optical signal and a radio frequency (RF) transceiver.
The system also includes a wireless earphone that has an optical receiver for receiving the audio data as the optical signal, a RF transceiver for transmitting feedback data indicating a reception quality of the received optical signal at the wireless earphone as a wireless RF signal, and a speaker for outputting the audio data contained within the optical signal and/or the data packets as sound.
As noted by 9to5Mac, optical audio transmission technology is likely to increase Bluetooth bandwidth which Apple’s head of acoustics alluded to in an interview. He said:
“Obviously the wireless technology is critical for the content delivery that you talk about but also things like the amount of latency you get when you move your head, and if that’s too long, between you moving your head and the sound changing or remaining static, it will make you feel quite ill.
So we have to concentrate very hard on squeezing the most that we can out of the Bluetooth technology, and there’s a number of tricks we can play to maximise or get around some of the limits of Bluetooth. But it’s fair to say that we would like more bandwidth and… I’ll stop right there. We would like more bandwidth.”
Apple’s mixed reality headset, expected to launch this year, would have 8K displays, eye-tracking capability, and a sleek curved visor in the front. With a swappable band, the device might weigh less than 150 grams for comfortable wear.