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Thursday, October 29, 2009, 09:35 am PT (12:35 pm ET)

Apple investigates media playing headset, shoe wear-out sensor

A string of new patent applications have revealed potentially unique products from Apple, including a MP3 playing headset and a sensor that would detect when a shoe needs to be replaced.

Headset with integrated MP3 player

Apple's concept for a new MP3 player would combine a Bluetooth headset for use with a cell phone, but include a separate, standalone MP3 player. Such an idea, the company's patent application reads, would save battery life on the cell phone and have media played exclusively through the headset.

"When used with mobile telephones, such headsets are frequently worn continually by their users, even when not engaged in telephone calls, because it is too inconvenient to have to reinsert the headset in one's ear each time a call comes in, while the phone is ringing and before the caller gives up and disconnects," the application reads. "Therefore, such headsets may be idle most of the time that they are being worn."

The new hardware would solve this issue by adding functionality to the wireless headset, allowing it to be used as a media player while calls are not being made. The hardware would include a wireless headset, a receiver that would accept audio signals from an external device, internal memory for storing media files, and accompanying circuitry to play back those media files.

Recording also plays a part in the described device. The wireless headset would be able to record all or part of a conversation that takes place when the hardware is used with an external cell phone or landline. In addition, voicemail messages on the phone could be transferred to the headset for playback when not connected.

The hardware is shown in two forms: One much like a traditional Bluetooth headset that uses only one ear, and another model that covers both ears and provides music in stereo. The patent application was filed on April 29, 2008.

MP3 headset patent


Shoe sole wear-out sensor

Also revealed this week was a patent application for a sort of e-shoe from Apple. The described device would include a detector sensing whether the sole of a shoe has been worn out, and then notify the user.

"Shoes (including sneakers or boots, for example) provide comfort and protection for feet. More importantly, shoes provide physical support for feet to reduce risk of foot injuries," the application reads. "A shoe is often necessary to provide support during intense physical activity, such as running, soccer and American football. As a shoe wears, physical support provided by the shoe decreases, thereby reducing associated protection from injury. When a critical wear level is reached, even if the shoe looks like it is not particularly worn, the shoe may not provide adequate support and may, in fact, cause damage to feet."

While the described system would primarily keep track of the physical condition of the shoe and whether it needs to be replaced, it would also include elements to track motion and activity over time. Using an accelerometer and force sensing resistor, a "use accumulator" would help determine how much wear and tear the shoe received over time.

Such a shoe could include an LED light and an audible device that would be used to indicate when the shoe is worn out. The patent application was originally filed on April 16, 2008.

Shoe patent