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Virtual speakers capable of simulating sound from anywhere in the room

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Apple has just been granted a patent on virtual positioning of audio, which could lay the groundwork for modern, more realistic audio applications. It builds on a previous Apple patent filed last month that, through special headphone tech, allowed users to hear where people are physically located in a room. The patent of today does exactly the same thing but with MacBook speakers built-in.

According to 9to5Mac, this is a virtual acoustic system that works by using crosstalk canceling, which makes users feel that sound comes from a different location than loudspeakers. (Crosstalk, here, refers to the overlapping sound waves that the ears receive from the speaker’s right and left channels.) The effect, as stated by Patently Apple, is to allow audio signals to contain “spatial cues” that allow the sound to be positioned virtually in a space. According to Patently Apple, the patent was originally filed in 2018.

This can be used to boost a sense of presence, say, when listening to a sports broadcast, for example. While the patent’s business uses are fairly evident (think better conference calls), entertainment applications need to be considered: the invention could be extended, for example, to games and television shows to make them feel more interactive. This means that one day you might watch more TV on your computer.

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