The intriguing patent application (opens in new tab), as spotted by AppleInsider (opens in new tab), outlines a killer new feature for the transparency mode within the active noise cancellation (ANC) feature. Entitled "Interrupt for Noise-Cancelling Audio Devices," it would enable users to specify a "pre-designated contact" which the device would recognize as an "interrupt authorized contact." In simple terms, it would allow you to hear certain people but not others, and you'd be able to choose who made the cut.
This could be very handy, for instance, for those times when your other half is trying to tell you that dinner is ready from the other side of the household. The patent also suggests that there could potentially be multiple voices that are approved as interrupters, and that it could respond to pre-determined keywords.
As the patent explains, "The external voice may be a voice of a known contact that has been identified, at another device associated with the audio device and the user (e.g., a phone, tablet or other device of the same user of the audio device) as an interruption-authorized contact."
The promising tech could get cleverer still, and make decisions about whether to interrupt your listening or not. Using a “time-of-arrival difference information as gathered by the headphones” it could decide whether an approved voice is actually talking to you or to somebody else, and avoid interrupting your listening unnecessarily.
It's important to recognize that this is only a patent, and that many of Apple's protected ideas and designs never see the light of day.
That said, some of the best noise-cancelling headphones do more than cancel out ambient background sounds already. Increasingly, ANC models are incorporating intelligent transparency modes for greater awareness levels of your surroundings and even to alert you to potential hazards, so this may well be an inevitable evolution of the tech.
While this tech may not make it into the AirPods Pro 2, there are already plenty of rumors about how Apple's next wireless earbuds are shaping up. The features tipped for the upgraded model including lossless audio support, most likely for Apple's own ALAC format, advanced health-tracking skills and improved battery life. We've rounded up some of the most exciting in our guide to the 5 biggest rumored upgrades for the AirPods Pro 2.