If Apple‘s patent applications are any indication, the call quality on your iPhone may get better in the coming years — even if a whole room full of people are shouting in the background.
According to this patent uncovered by Apple Insider, Apple is looking to improve noise cancellation on the iPhone by having the phone recognize the specific tone and nuances of the user’s voice. While most noise cancellation techniques focus on filtering out certain kinds of ambient noise (strong winds or whirring fans, for example), the Apple patent reverses the equation, analyzing the user’s voice and filtering out everything else.
The key to the technology would be a system that can discern the unique patterns in a person’s voice, including frequencies and distinct inflections. Apple is obviously focused on improving the voice-recognition technology in its digital assistant, Siri, and this patent is likely a consequence of that focus.
If it works, the technology would theoretically be better than other noise-cancellation systems, which use less subtle techniques like bone conduction (prevalent in Jawbone’s Bluetooth earpieces) or filtering out entire chunks of the audio spectrum based on the frequencies of typical noise.
Included in the application is a proposal to apply the voice-specific noise suppression to the person at the other end of a phone call. That would mean if you were having a speakerphone conversation, the microphone could remain active while the other person speaks, since his or her voice would be cancelled out.
Three other patent applications from Apple also deal with noise cancellation, but the techniques are less novel, ranging from echo cancellation to some specific ways portable devices use the technology.
Apple originally filed the patents in June 2010, so it’s had some time to work on the proposals since then. Might we see voice-specific noise cancellation in the next iPhone? Stay tuned.