Apple is rumored to be working on a pair of over-the-ear headphones, while the details regarding the product were pretty slim so far, a newly granted patent titled “System and method for automatic right-left ear detection for headphones,” reveals what Apple might be planning. The patent describes a pair of headphones that would be reversible, automatically adjusting which ear cup is the right or left based on how you put them on.
The patent further reveals that the headphones ear cups would have five microphones on it that are used to determine which ear cup is which through a variety of complicated methods involving comparing relative microphone inputs. Once the headphones have determined their placement, the headphones could use those mic arrays to pull off something similar to the HomePod, using one mic to capture your voice and a second one to cancel out background noise so that you can be clearly heard.
The patent only focuses on a technology that can be used to determine which ear cup is on your right ear for voice detection. But, presumably, Apple could apply the reversible nature to play back the proper right / left stereo signals to the proper ear once it’s already established which ear is which. Since the patents are no indication that Apple would bring such technology to reality, there’s no way to tell when will the company actually use it.