Apple's universal remote concept hints at future television set

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014


Apple has shown interest in building a new, simplified remote control that would automatically control a variety of devices while reducing setup and frustration for the user.



The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Apparatus and Method to Facilitate Universal Remote Control," it describes a touchscreen-based controller that would reduce the confusing clutter found on current universal remotes.



The filing notes that current remotes have a large number of buttons and switches to control the functions of a device, and while those buttons are necessary to control all of the functions, the average user typically only uses a handful of the buttons.



"The controls that are not normally used clutter the remote control and can cause confusion to the user when trying to locate a seldom-used feature," the filing notes.



It also details how current universal remotes are even more complex to operate than the basic remotes that ship with specific devices, like a television set or receiver. And often times, those universal remotes cannot replicate some of the tasks found on the original remote.



"Hence, users must spend time learning a new remote control or programming an existing universal remote each time they purchase a new remotely controllable appliance, which detracts from the enjoyment of using the appliance after it is first purchased," Apple's application states. "What is needed is an apparatus and a method to provide remote control over multiple appliances without the difficulties described above."



Apple's proposed solution is a remote control with a dynamic touchscreen used for input. The remote would include a "discovery mechanism" that would discover available appliances for it to control, negating the need for users to enter complex codes and program individual devices.











The filing describes a remote controlling one or more of a television, video players, a stereo, a "smart home" control system, and even a Mac. The document notes that the controller could also be used beyond electronic appliances, and could control programs and functions on a computer, like allowing a user to play songs on iTunes on their Mac or PC.



Apple's solution would simplify the user interface by having devices wirelessly transmit a specific interface for that device. The remote would receive this customized button layout, and dynamically present input options to the user without the clutter of a typical button-based universal remote.



The remote would also detect which appliances are within range of the controller. If, for example, a specific appliance could not be detected, the remote would gray that option out so the user would know it is not available.



The proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in September of 2011. It is credited to Albert Vidal.











the application is particularly noteworthy as rumors of a full-fledged Apple television set have gained considerable steam since the release of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs late last year. Jobs told his biographer that he had "cracked" the concept for a television set with "the simplest user interface you could imagine."



Various reports have suggested that Apple's television could be controlled through Siri, Apple's voice recognition and personal assistant software currently found on the iPhone 4S. But at times when voice control would not be ideal, Apple could also allow a back-up remote much like the one described in the newly unveiled patent application.



Another patent application detailed earlier this month by AppleInsider also offered a glimpse of how Apple could produce superior picture quality with advanced backlighting technology. The proposed invention is similar to how current LED-backlit television sets offer "local dimming," which allows dark images on the screen to display truer blacks and more accurate colors.

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Comments

  • tomhayestomhayes Posts: 126member
    Like the Harmony Remotes , but on a touchscreen with some form of device detection?



    Harmony Link does a lot of this now.
  • maury markowitzmaury markowitz Posts: 298member
    This is *obviously* an ancient patent they're just putting in now in order to enlarge their quiver. Seriously, "video tape player"??



    There is no effective way to do discovery. All methods have obvious and very real failure modes.
  • l008coml008com Posts: 163member
    This sounds kind of exactly like apple's "Remote" app running on an iPad touch. Except that it can't control any IR devices.
  • rcoleman1rcoleman1 Posts: 153member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tomhayes View Post


    Like the Harmony Remotes , but on a touchscreen with some form of device detection?



    Harmony Link does a lot of this now.



    Not quite. Harmony doesn't use a lot of screen real estate nor do they have the broad touch interface experience.
  • irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,420member
    This is not really a new patent application but a continuation of the original 2002 patent.
  • asterionasterion Posts: 96member
    This looks like a means of embedding Apple's iPhone/iPad products within the broader "watching and recording television" product area.



    I would suggest that it seems more likely Apple will seek to enlarge their iOS ecosystem into the television product arena, rather than jump into this area with a discrete, stand-alone product (the iPhone was originally pitched as an extension of the iPod/iTunes experience).



    So this patent suggests that the way of controlling the Apple Television that Steve said he'd "cracked" may involve the iPhone or iPad...



    [BTW, it seems to me that the reference to video tape may be a way for Apple to indicate functionality without giving away their true intentions.]
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    This is where AMOLED could come in handy because the display could show mostly black even filled with buttons thus reducing power usage.
  • guycarmeliguycarmeli Posts: 1member
    This is all very nice, but I don't see the point of a touch screen remote without tactile feedback. This is the same problem for keyboards - you'll need to constantly look at them in order to hit the right button.

    I use several remote apps on my iPod touch, and this limitation is inherent; very inconvenient when you want to change some visual settings while looking at the picture on the screen and not the remote.



    I've seen one feature that tries to confront this problem (I think on the Boxee app or XBMC profile in HippoeReomte) by using the whole touch surface as one control with finger gestures.
  • pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    It's an iPad.
  • robogoborobogobo Posts: 377member
    Apple reinvents the VCR.
  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 40,383member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by guycarmeli View Post


    This is all very nice, but I don't see the point of a touch screen remote without tactile feedback.



    Large buttons make it unnecessary.



    Quote:

    This is the same problem for keyboards - you'll need to constantly look at them in order to hit the right button.



    I can touch-type on my iPad. I can very nearly touch-type on my iPhone. It's a non-issue.



    Quote:

    very inconvenient when you want to change some visual settings while looking at the picture on the screen and not the remote.



    In my entire life, I've never had a SINGLE remote control that I could use to adjust visual settings without looking at the remote itself. First, no one remembers where those controls are. Second, how many remotes even HAVE dedicated controls for that?
  • dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,481member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Maury Markowitz View Post


    This is *obviously* an ancient patent they're just putting in now in order to enlarge their quiver. Seriously, "video tape player"??



    There is no effective way to do discovery. All methods have obvious and very real failure modes.



    Discovery is hard because these remote controlled devices do not transmit any type of signal. There should be a way that these devices can be put into a discovery mode like cellphones do when pairing a Bluetooth to it.
  • evilutionevilution Posts: 997member
    If the iPad had an IR sender, some app coder would have already done this.
  • cvaldes1831cvaldes1831 Posts: 1,832member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by guycarmeli View Post


    This is all very nice, but I don't see the point of a touch screen remote without tactile feedback. This is the same problem for keyboards - you'll need to constantly look at them in order to hit the right button.

    I use several remote apps on my iPod touch, and this limitation is inherent; very inconvenient when you want to change some visual settings while looking at the picture on the screen and not the remote.



    I've seen one feature that tries to confront this problem (I think on the Boxee app or XBMC profile in HippoeReomte) by using the whole touch surface as one control with finger gestures.



    In addition to Tallest Skil's comments, I will point out that programmable touch screen A/V control panels have been around 15+ years. While the earliest ones were mounted into a console and hardwired, it's definitely not a new concept.



    There are ways of designing a touchscreen user interface where controlling a single variable (e.g., contrast) can be done fairly easily by not looking at the screen, yet still retaining the ability to adjust in minute amounts.



    In any case, this does look like a very old idea that they are now adding to their patent quiver. Most Apple patents never see the light of day in a finished product on a store shelf.
  • irelandireland Posts: 15,574member
    No need for this universal remote when iTV will do it all.
  • prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Maury Markowitz View Post


    ... There is no effective way to do discovery. All methods have obvious and very real failure modes.



    This is the first thing I thought also.



    This invention makes no sense at all unless Apple is going to get into the business of manufacturing all the devices like TV's DVD players etc. It goes back to the problem that almost no electronic gear is actually wirelessly aware of anything. The majority of remote control solutions in the market place are IR not bluetooth or WiFi, and even if they were capable, they'd still have to adhere to some Apple standard of discovery.
  • prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    ... I can touch-type on my iPad. I can very nearly touch-type on my iPhone. It's a non-issue. ...



    As you probably know, I generally agree with most of your comments, but I find this really quite dubious.



    Touch-typing on a sub-sized, non-standard, non-tactile keyboard????



    methinks you are redefining "touch-typing" a bit here.
  • gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tomhayes View Post


    Like the Harmony Remotes , but on a touchscreen with some form of device detection?



    Harmony Link does a lot of this now.



    Harmony devices are the perfect example of things people think are good, but look primitive once Apple shows how to do it right.

    I've owned Harmony remotes for years, and while they're better than most others, they're still pretty terrible.
  • charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,069member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Maury Markowitz View Post


    This is *obviously* an ancient patent they're just putting in now in order to enlarge their quiver. Seriously, "video tape player"??



    There are some folks that still have and use video tapes. Old home movies are one example. So why not include that in the list alongside the DVD player etc
  • charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,069member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    Touch-typing on a sub-sized, non-standard, non-tactile keyboard



    I see folks do it all the time. It's just muscle memory, autocorrecting and substitutions at work.
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