The purpose of these acoustical patent reviews is to provide enough information for a Journal reader to decide whether to seek more information from the patent itself. Any opinions expressed here are those of the reviewers as individuals and are not legal opinions. Patents are available via the internet at the USPTO website, and also using Google Patents.

  • GEORGE L. AUGSPURGER, Perception, Incorporated, Box 39536, Los Angeles, California 90039

  • JAMES DEGRANDIS, Acoustics First Corp., 2247 Tomlin Street, Richmond, Virginia 23230

  • JOHN A. HOSSACK, Department of Biomedical, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908

Sheng-Wen Huang et al., assignors to KONINKLIJKE PHILIPS N.V.

6 August 2019; filed 18 June 2014

In the field of echocardiography, a method is described for identifying lung tissue in the vicinity of the heart. This is determined from ultrasound signal properties such as center frequency, which shifts according to tissue type. The primary motivation is to provide guidance so that the user manipulates a transducer to obtain a better image of the heart. The method includes real-time 3D and display graphical guidance to facilitate improved transducer positioning.—JH

F. William Mauldin, Jr. et al., assignors to University of Virginia Patent Foundation

6 August 2019; filed 25 April 2012

This invention relates to optimal ultrasound ensonification and signal processing for the purpose of yielding usable images of bone structures. The primary application is for identifying spaces between vertebrae for the purpose of guiding anesthesia injection. The invention makes maximal use of speculate reflections and uses graphic indicia, tailored according to the specific application, to further guide the interpretation and use of acquired images—which would otherwise be difficult to interpret for an average user.—JH

Roy Beck Peterson et al., assignors to KONINKLIJKE PHILIPS N.V.

6 August 2019; filed 15 November 2010

This patent involves an ultrasonic diagnostic imaging system that creates an image of shear wave velocities. “Push pulses” are transmitted to generate shear waves. Beamformed ultrasound vectors are transmitted and received to allow for tracking of the shear waves. The received vector data is processed to determine the time of peak tissue displacement caused by the shear waves at points along the tracking lines, and the times of peaks at adjacent tracking lines are used to compute a local shear wave velocity. These local shear wave velocity estimates are used to create a color-coded display that overlays an anatomical image of the region of interest. Applications include cancer diagnosis—e.g., breast cancer.—JH

James Robertson Jago et al., assignors to Koninklijke Philips N.V.

6 August 2019; filed 27 September 2013

This invention relates to the use of a 2D array in an ultrasound system oriented towards cardiovascular applications, and operates so as to obtain short axis and long axis views, essentially simultaneously, of a blood vessel of interest. Peak Color Doppler detected velocities in each of the two planes are obtained. The movement of a sample volume graphic icon, representative of peak detected velocity, is shifted automatically between the two orthogonal views. Using this approach facilitates a more rapid assessment of vessel stenosis (narrowing). Essentially, the invention improves user efficiency with a view to arriving at a more accurate assessment of stenosis in a lesser amount of time.—JH

Alan K. Schaer et al., assignors to ReCor Medical, Inc.

6 August 2019; filed 17 July 2017

This invention describes an ultrasound-based approach for treating gastroesophageal reflux by delivering acoustic energy to the lower esophageal sphincter, in order to tighten the sphincter with the effect that reflux is reduced. A cylindrical transducer, emitting unfocused ultrasound, is arranged within a catheter lumen in order to facilitate a minimally invasive approach.—JH

Randy L. King

6 August 2019; filed 27 April 2015

This invention relates to an ultrasound-based method for noninvasively sterilizing animals. This avoids the complexities and expense of surgical approaches. A handheld instrument comprising both an imaging ultrasound transducer and a therapeutic transducer is employed. The imaging capability provides real time image guidance to the therapeutic use of ultrasound.—JH

Jonathan Moeller et al., assignors to Google LLC

6 August 2019; filed 28 February 2018

People who use sealed earphones while cycling, running, or just walking, may fail to hear alarm signals. Several methods for providing controlled sound leakage have been patented, but most of them require the user to manually select the bypass mode of operation. The system described here uses a smart headset that includes head-tracking provisions. If an alarm or other danger is detected, a warning is sounded. The warning emanates from a virtual source whose location remains fixed, regardless of movements by the user.—GLA


13 August 2019; filed 7 December 2017

Harman International has already patented a robotic loudspeaker that moves itself to an optimum location. This new patent goes a step further: a fleet of wireless flying loudspeakers automatically lands at predetermined locations to create a surround sound installation in a matter of minutes. The method disclosed in the patent generates a spatial map of the listening environment, then determines a set of “perch locations” based on the map. Individual loudspeakers are then dispatched to their respective perch locations.—GLA

Paul Douglas Corl et al., assignors to VOLCANO CORPORATION

20 August 2019; filed 23 February 2015

The majority of intravascular ultrasound devices use a single-element transducer mounted on a rapidly rotating flexible drive shaft fitted to the lumen of a catheter. This invention proposes to improve upon this design by including electronics components adjacent to the transducer mounted distally in the catheter. Typically this will involve at least an amplifier, and thereby improve net signal-to-noise ratio in the overall system, resulting in improved imaging performance. A number of additional electronic features are also considered.—JH

Juanita Miller

20 August 2019; filed 30 March 2017

This eye shield includes an audio playback system to provide soothing music. A small digital music player 20 is attached to the headband along with two earbuds 50. That is pretty much the scope of the patent.—GLA

Lili Qiu and Sangki Yun, assignors to Board of Regents, The University of Texas System

20 August 2019; filed 24 January 2017

A substantial body of prior art exists for using hand movements to control electronic devices or interact with computer games. Although that is what is identified in the patent title, the Claims more broadly define, “A method for tracking the movement of an object… .” Audio signals are reflected from the object, received, and then processed in a specific manner to estimate distance and velocity.—GLA

Bilal Muhsin and Ammar Al-Ali, assignors to Masimo Corporation

20 August 2019; filed 26 February 2018

A hospital patient monitoring device usually has a video screen that displays several functions—pulse, respiration, etc. If a problem is detected, a single loudspeaker generates an alarm signal. This patent explains how additional loudspeakers can provide spatial clues, “…to direct a care provider quickly and intuitively to a particular direction or location.”—GLA

Reto Schläpfer and Markus Pinkpank, assignors to OASWISS AG

20 August 2019; filed 14 June 2017

It is possible, but not easy, to create a relatively quiet zone in a noisy environment by using active noise cancellation. Multiple loudspeakers and sensing microphones are required, plus sophisticated computer control. This patent asserts that a planar array of active microphone/speaker modules offers certain performance advantages. Moreover, the array can be used as a room divider or a window curtain. Unfortunately, as the patent acknowledges, the idea is not new. So, what is actually covered by the patent is an array of analog-controlled modules in which dimensions, weights, and interconnecting wiring are all tightly specified. As a result, the patent itself is largely decorative.—GLA

Hon Weng Chong and An Lin, assignors to CliniCloud Inc.

20 August 2019; filed 25 January 2017

In the past ten years a number of routine medical procedures have become semi-automated. After attaching a cuff or sensor, the medical technician uses a standard computer interface to call up the desired program. The test is then performed and the results are entered into the patient's medical history, all without any further input from the technician. It seems fairly obvious that it would be convenient, and not very difficult, to add a voice command capability. That is what has been patented here.—GLA

Peter L. Chu et al., assignors to Polycom, Inc.

20 August 2019; filed 20 November 2018

A portable audio teleconference unit typically contains three or four directional microphones. This patent points out that audible comb filtering can result when a microphone is located within a few feet of a sound reflecting surface such as a video monitor. In practice, according to the patent, the effect is noticeably worse if the microphone is directional rather than omnidirectional. The proposed solution is to add an omnidirectional microphone to the voice pickup array. Its real-time spectral response is then used as a reference to equalize the individual directional microphones.—GLA

Timothy Degraye and Liliane Huguet, assignors to HED TECHNOLOGIES SARL

20 August 2019; filed 23 December 2015

This patent has a modest goal. It is, “…aimed to revolutionize the way people listen and share music.” The proposed method for accomplishing this revolution is spelled out in the patent Claims: a local network is created for connecting a group of wireless headphones; at least one headphone is connected to an audio device, and the audio can be shared with all the other headphones. There is also an embodiment which includes a directional microphone array for active noise cancellation.—GLA

Michael Schwarz et al., assignors to ECOM Instruments GmbH

20 August 2019; filed 19 November 2018

The illustration clearly shows what has been patented here. A dual voice coil loudspeaker has the two coils connected in parallel. Two pairs of connecting wires are then run back to the secondary winding of an audio transformer. The two sets of wires are also paralleled. According to the patent text, “…the intention is to create a loudspeaker arrangement which is suitable for use in a potentially explosive area even with high levels of converted electrical power.” All right, it is apparent that parallel connections minimize the possibility of an electric spark. However, the patent then goes on to explain the requirement for a transformer: “If the electric energy supply should generate excessively high output power and if the loudspeaker were not galvanically isolated from the electrical energy supply, the voice coils would heat up, which in extreme cases might result in a glow ignition, which is not tolerable in a potentially explosive area.” That makes no sense at all, and your reviewer is frankly mystified.—GLA

Brian Courtney and Amandeep Thind, assignors to SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE

27 August 2019; filed 26 June 2017

This invention relates to catheter-based ultrasound in which a single element is mechanically swept to create an ensonified field of view. In this version of the underlying invention, the angular position of the imaging element that is being swept is determined by a second ultrasound transducer configured in an angle-sensing format. For example, the angle-sensing transducer may be configured to direct an angle-sensing ultrasonic beam towards an acoustically reflective surface and provide a signal by detecting a reflected ultrasonic beam reflected from the acoustically reflective surface, wherein the acoustically reflective surface is positioned immediately adjacent to the swept ultrasound imaging transducer.—JH

Shobha Devi Kuruba Buchannagari and Richard Kulavik, assignors to Voyetra Turtle Beach, Inc.

27 August 2019; filed 14 May 2015

This gaming headset has a microphone array whose directivity can be adjusted between several preset patterns. The pattern can be selected by the user or automatically chosen on the basis of background noise.—GLA

David Hecht et al., assignors to TURTLE BEACH CORPORATION

27 August 2019; filed 9 January 2018

Interactive touchscreens are used extensively in shopping malls, airports, and museums. Such a screen usually fills the available space, making it difficult to find room for a directional loudspeaker. In this case, a conventional touchscreen is covered by a transparent ultrasonic emitter to create a parametric loudspeaker. The patent includes extensive information about transparent touchscreen technology but almost nothing about the generation of sound. Apparently, audio reproduction is taken up in several other related patents.—GLA

Arun D. Chawan et al., assignors to Apple Inc.

27 August 2019; filed 22 September 2016

The text of this very long patent describes all sorts of interesting gadgets that are not mentioned in the Claims. What has actually been patented is a wireless earbud design that includes a “multiport chamber,” a “rear vent,” and a “bass channel” that couples the back volume to the multiport chamber.—GLA

Kenji Ogata et al., assignors to DAI-ICHI SEIKO CO., LTD.

27 August 2019; filed 8 June 2016

In order to allow for increased low frequency perception from an “earbud” style earphone, this patent adds piezo transducers and vibration plates to transmit low frequencies directly into the body of the device. This system is targeting the cartilage inside the ear canal itself, while high frequency sounds are transmitted toward the eardrum using a traditional transducer (tweeter). The low frequency vibrations are dampened so as to not cause audible vibrations through the exterior body of the device, which extends outside the ear canal. The plates are mounted with weights to tune their response and each transmit vibrations into the body of the device through their mounts in mutually orthogonal directions—similar to a tuning fork gyroscope. This haptic-type vibration device is novel due to its integration inside the canal, along with a traditional transducer.—JD

Rex Price et al., assignors to Skullcandy, Inc.

27 August 2019; filed 21 June 2018

A central vent hole 158 behind the diaphragm of this earphone receiver can be fitted with a “mass port plug” 166 to modify the frequency response. The patent suggests that a selection can be made from several standard plug designs.—GLA

Grant Howard McGibney et al., assignors to Nureva, Inc.

27 August 2019; filed 23 August 2018

This patent appears to be elaborate vaporware. Although a substantial amount of prior art is cited, there is no information regarding computer simulations or actual trials. The invention is concerned with voice pickup of teleconference participants. Instead of using individual microphones or a steerable microphone array, a larger array of ceiling-level microphones is envisioned. By applying suitable delay and weighting to the signals from individual microphones, sound pickup can be focused at any point in three-dimensional space below the array. Prior patents have used a similar approach but with a defined array geometry. In this case, the array is arbitrary—it is simply “…a plurality of physical microphones.” In a preferred embodiment, the entire room volume is divided into more than a thousand small “bubbles,” and all the bubbles are continuously scanned to find the optimum pickup location at any given time. To handle the computational requirements, each physical microphone has its own computer core. Obviously, this is all at least ten times more complicated than required for any practical teleconference setup, but the basic scheme could be used with a smaller number of bubbles. The patent Claims do not place any restriction on the number of physical microphones or bubbles, but the Claims do require at least one computer core for each physical microphone.—GLA

Jian-Hung Liu et al., assignors to Qisda Corporation

3 September 2019; filed 15 July 2016

This invention relates to a plano-concave transducer array design. By using such a design, a spatially varying response is obtained when the transducer is operated with a frequency-varying chirp excitation function.—JH

Daniel Landron and Kurt S. Fienberg, assignors to MOTOROLA SOLUTIONS, INC.

3 September 2019; filed 29 March 2018

Directional microphone arrays are commonly used in contemporary portable communications devices. Obviously, if a microphone stops working, the performance of the array is degraded. Prior art includes schemes for detecting such a situation and identifying any microphone that fails to generate an output signal. A more insidious failure mode is one in which a defective microphone becomes noisy. This patent describes a method for detecting and identifying defective microphones in both failure modes. The method is based on full cross-correlation, including phase as well as magnitude, between unique microphone pairs.—GLA