Apple has been researching software solutions that would tap into a user’s Apple Watch to intelligently adjust an iPhone’s alert volume on the fly, by monitoring and comparing ambient sound samples.
Filed for with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) back in 2014 and published on Thursday, the patent application titled “Volume control for mobile device using a wireless device” outlines volume control adjustments by having a Watch’s built-in microphone sample an alert generated on an iPhone to “detect a distinct contribution corresponding to the audible alert.”
If the contribution is outside acceptable levels, the patent abstract explains, a wearable device can notify an iPhone to adjust its alert volume or other alert characteristics.
By comparing an alert sound recorded by a wearable device against a stored reference signal based on ambient noise samples, a sound threshold analysis algorithm would determine precise volume adjustments.
Having an Apple Watch record ambient sounds is a smart idea, argues Apple, as the device is likely to be relatively exposed to the ambient air while it is being worn.
In one embodiment, an iPhone is tucked in a pocket or positioned away from ambient air by a “sonic barrier”. A Watch can use inferences about whether and to what degree a barrier is present to adjust an iPhone’s audio output by increasing volume if a strong sonic barrier is detected or decreasing volume if no sonic barrier is detected.
The ability to automatically adjust iPhone alert volume should make users’ lives easier in noisy environments when the default volume level setting may be too low, or by lowering the volume or completely silencing alerts in quiet situations.
The invention could even help improve the accuracy of a tetherless ‘Hey Siri’ on the iPhone 6s by taking into account known characteristics of the human voice or speech generally, especially characteristics of the voice or speech pertaining to a particular user.
The patent application credits Apple engineers David J. Shoemaker and Eugene Dvortsov as its inventors.