Apple Patent Reveals Future Headphone-Speaker Hybrid

The iPhone 5's newly redesigned EarPods fit snug as a bug in one person's ear, but a newly granted Apple patent outlines intriguing next-generation headphones that can intelligently double as an amplified speaker to fill a whole room with sound.

As you can see in the picture above, the invention involves swiveling headphones that can switch between on-ear mode and speaker mode. Internal components could identify when the headset is on a person's head or, say, on a table, which would allow it to switch to speaker mode automatically. Alternatively, a simple button push could swap between the two modes.

Patently Apple explains that the patent filing mentions the possibility of including an internal amplifier to help boost audio levels when the headset is in speaker mode. A safety feature would automatically deactivate the amplifier when the headset is slipped back into the on-ear position, to avoid shattering delicate eardrums.

Don't expect to see these in stores any time soon, as the ink is basically still drying on the USPTO's stamp of approval. Nevertheless, could this be a glimpse into the future of headphone technology? We can only hope so -- it's a killer idea.

Image credit: PatentlyApple