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Apple investigating new touch-based spiral Cover Flow for music selection

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
Apple is exploring a new user interface for browsing music albums on a touch-based device, with a spiral-style take on Cover Flow done in 3D.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week unveiled a new patent application from Apple entitled "User Interface for Media Playback." Discovered by AppleInsider, it describes a graphical user interface used to display information about many items at once.

In the imagery that accompanies the application, the technology is shown as a new take on Apple's existing, patented Cover Flow user interface. Like Cover Flow, the new "spiral" layout is a 3D interface that allows users to quickly flip through album art to select an album.

However, unlike the current method, which moves horizontally, Apple's latest invention would have the album art move in a spiral form.

The patent application notes that icons are a good way to make a graphical user interface easy to use, but having icons that are too large takes up too much of the screen. It states that in the current Cover Flow method, the interface only allows users to see "about one or two files before and after the selected file."

"It does not display much, if any information about the other files in the list," it states. "Accordingly a method for displaying a list with a large number of icons of a sufficient size to be capable of conveying detailed information about each file and the list as a whole is needed."



With Apple's new proposed method, a host of icons would be displayed on the screen in a spiral form. These individual album covers could, with a touch-based device, be chosen or moved about.

For example, using a spiral display for a playlist could have the album art for the currently playing song at the top, with songs to follow displayed subsequently, getting smaller as they go down the 3D spiral. Users could touch and drag album art to reorder songs that are to be played on the playlist.

"The embodiments described herein provide for a more efficient way of managing a digital list," the application reads. "Users can view and arrange a great number of items in a list. Further, users can create a new list using one drag operation."



In addition to the spiral method, the application shows a few other options for sorting icons and album art, including a cascading style that could offer a glimpse at multiple upcoming songs in a playlist.

The patent application was first filed by Apple on June 11, 2009. The invention is credited to Michael Neuman and William Martin Bachman.
post #2 of 27
Perhaps my mind has become to old and feeble to use it, but i find what I am looking for much faster in list view. I think cover flow looks nice but ultimately too slow for me. I am not seeing how this would be anything but eye candy.
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post #3 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdaddyp View Post

Perhaps my mind has become to old and feeble to use it, but i find what I am looking for much faster in list view. I think cover flow looks nice but ultimately too slow for me. I am not seeing how this would be anything but eye candy.

Cover flow wooks good when you're not quite sure what you're looking for and just browsing until you find a song/album/artist that makes you interested
post #4 of 27
This is so exciting! Does the creativity of man have no bounds?
post #5 of 27
The trouble with patents being public during the application process and reporting of said patents is that they are free concepts for Google and Microsoft to set a team to work copying them immediately whilst trying to work around the patents. IMHO It would be good if the first time the public became aware of a patent was when it was granted.
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post #6 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

The trouble with patents being public during the application process and reporting of said patents is that they are free concepts for Google and Microsoft to set a team to work copying them immediately whilst trying to work around the patents. IMHO It would be good if the first time the public became aware of a patent was when it was granted.

It was my understanding that the reason it works this way was for other people/companies to be able to check and see if it violated their patents before it was accepted. (I would think that would be the job of the patent office itself though.)
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post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post

It was my understanding that the reason it works this way was for other people/companies to be able to check and see if it violated their patents before it was accepted. (I would think that would be the job of the patent office itself though.)

Yeah! And it doesn't take an Einstein to work in a patent office...
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post #8 of 27
As big a fan of Apple products as I am, this is just ridiculous. If somebody then comes up with a staircase pattern instead of a spiral, is that patentable too? The patent system is broken. That's why all these patent lawsuits have proliferated.
post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Yeah! And it doesn't take an Einstein to work in a patent office...

+1 for this, the nerdiest joke I've read all morning.
post #10 of 27
I can't imagine this being effective on an iPhone/iPod screen size
seems only useful on an iPad or touchscreen mac -
i speculate that it's a new finder option for 10.7 - not that i ever use cover flow for finder windows now.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

As big a fan of Apple products as I am, this is just ridiculous. If somebody then comes up with a staircase pattern instead of a spiral, is that patentable too? The patent system is broken. That's why all these patent lawsuits have proliferated.

I'd rather see the spiral staircase UI. I'd get vertigo using the Apple UI shown in the patent.

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post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Yeah! And it doesn't take an Einstein to work in a patent office...

I am pretty sure that Al would have loved your comment - made me chuckle. Thx
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdaddyp View Post

Perhaps my mind has become to old and feeble to use it, but i find what I am looking for much faster in list view. I think cover flow looks nice but ultimately too slow for me. I am not seeing how this would be anything but eye candy.

It's not your age

Cover Flow is aesthetically fantastic, and functionally inefficient.
post #14 of 27
Wow, these trivial visual cues will ensure itunes on my 2010 MacBook Pro functions at basically the same speed iTunes did on my 2006 Macbook Pro!
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmz View Post

It's not your age

Cover Flow is aesthetically fantastic, and functionally inefficient.

What I would like on my iPhone is to have the covers arranged in rows like icons. 16 to a page. That way, finding an album would be jut as easy as finding an app.
post #16 of 27
The biggest problem with CoverFlow (there are several) is that it requires that the images, the "Covers" be on the device doing the graphical browsing.

To see what I mean, try accessing shared iTunes from an iTunes on another computer on a network.

CoverFlow is available on the computer containing the content -- but not on the computer(s) sharing that content.

Why? Because it takes too much bandwidth to send all the "Cover" images over WiFi or Ethernet.


Now, consider that the trend is to NOT copy all your content (and "Cover" images) to your mobile devices -- rather, copy some (must always have with you) content and stream the rest over WiFi or 3G.


That means you have an inconsistent (unsettling) UI among the various devices you use to access content.


Somewhere, in the future, we will have enough speed and bandwidth available, at low enough cost, to make graphical browsing of streamed content practical -- we aren't there yet.
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post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

The biggest problem with CoverFlow (there are several) is that it requires that the images, the "Covers" be on the device doing the graphical browsing.

To see what I mean, try accessing shared iTunes from an iTunes on another computer on a network.

CoverFlow is available on the computer containing the content -- but not on the computer(s) sharing that content.

Why? Because it takes too much bandwidth to send all the "Cover" images over WiFi or Ethernet.


Now, consider that the trend is to NOT copy all your content (and "Cover" images) to your mobile devices -- rather, copy some (must always have with you) content and stream the rest over WiFi or 3G.


That means you have an inconsistent (unsettling) UI among the various devices you use to access content.


Somewhere, in the future, we will have enough speed and bandwidth available, at low enough cost, to make graphical browsing of streamed content practical -- we aren't there yet.

But those images tend to be around 8-10kb at the most. Is that really enough to be a bandwidth issue?

Also, Pandora shows their album art when streaming music, and they're an ad-driven service so you know they would skimp where they could.

I think it's more about how the data is transmitted, and right now the images aren't tied into the mp3 file, so you get music only. You can transmit the tags though since it IS part of the file, and then look up and download album cover art based on that tag data.

I'm not certain, but could mp3 files evolve in complexity, with album art binded like the tag data, all while maintaining legacy support?
post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by chronster View Post

But those images tend to be around 8-10kb at the most. Is that really enough to be a bandwidth issue?

Also, Pandora shows their album art when streaming music, and they're an ad-driven service so you know they would skimp where they could.

I think it's more about how the data is transmitted, and right now the images aren't tied into the mp3 file, so you get music only. You can transmit the tags though since it IS part of the file, and then look up and download album cover art based on that tag data.

I'm not certain, but could mp3 files evolve in complexity, with album art binded like the tag data, all while maintaining legacy support?

I have an app that does CoverFlow on the iPhone and iPad. It has about 80 Covers. The Cover images are 256 x256 .pngs -- and range in size form 150 KB - 258 KB, with an average of 225 KB.

This size is pretty much dictated by the fact that OpenGL and the GPU are used for a smooth effect.

The bandwidth requirement can be somewhat mitigated if you use a drill-down approach:
-- A single Cover for each artist/genre
-- Drill-down to all the Covers for the selected artist/genre
-- caching of Covers

It starts to get a little RAM bound and GPU intensive.

FWIW, Here's a first cut at a 2-level CoverFlow drill-down: Artist--->Albums

I didn't have enough Artists with enough Albums -- so I kinda' faked the content.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXjpLnGKx6I
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post #19 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

The biggest problem with CoverFlow (there are several) is that it requires that the images, the "Covers" be on the device doing the graphical browsing.

To see what I mean, try accessing shared iTunes from an iTunes on another computer on a network.

CoverFlow is available on the computer containing the content -- but not on the computer(s) sharing that content.

Why? Because it takes too much bandwidth to send all the "Cover" images over WiFi or Ethernet.


Now, consider that the trend is to NOT copy all your content (and "Cover" images) to your mobile devices -- rather, copy some (must always have with you) content and stream the rest over WiFi or 3G.


That means you have an inconsistent (unsettling) UI among the various devices you use to access content.


Somewhere, in the future, we will have enough speed and bandwidth available, at low enough cost, to make graphical browsing of streamed content practical -- we aren't there yet.

So how come I can see covers on my Apple TV?
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post #20 of 27
Oh great, so now I can get dizzy and fall down every time I try to pick a new album.
post #21 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by enjourni View Post

Oh great, so now I can get dizzy and fall down every time I try to pick a new album.

yeah, and try to use cover flow when you're on a treadmill.
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by chronster View Post

I'm not certain, but could mp3 files evolve in complexity, with album art binded like the tag data, all while maintaining legacy support?

I'm not sure if you're joking or not, but that's how adding album to an mp3 album works. Except of course in iTunes where Apple decided to throw it all into a database that makes all that data inaccessible to every other program. Maybe it's more efficient to store it all in a database, but the paranoid part of me feels Apple did it to make moving away from iTunes a big pain in the butt.
post #23 of 27
All Hail Boognish!
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

So how come I can see covers on my Apple TV?

Good question!

Some of the covers are much bigger than the 256 x 256 .pngs. For example: the movie Annapolis downloaded from iTunes contains a metadata cover image of 675 x 1000 (1 Megabyte).

There also is an Album Artwork folder within the iTunes folder. It appears to store reduced size, e..g. 128 x 128 images. The lo-res Annapolis image is 91 x 128 for 46 KB of a 310 KB file (other metadata?).


If you switch among iTunes libraries on your AppleTV there is a long delay as it "loads" the new library over WiFi.


The best I can figure is that when you choose an iTunes library from the AppleTV:

1) there is a slight delay as the Album Artwork is uploaded to the AppleTV to make lo-res images available for populating menus, etc.

2) The higher-res metadata images are loaded when you select a category, e.g. Movies, Music.

3) There is a slight delay as these Hi-res images start loading, but after a few seconds, the AppleTV begins to animate the images it has, while loading additional images.

4) if you scroll the menu down to a certain movie, it will show the lo-res image in the scroll area, and the Hi-Res image to the left with the other metadata. If this has not yet loaded, nothing (or a generic icon) is displayed, and the selected item's hi-res image is retrieved immediately.

5) when you select the movie/song for play, there is a short delay and it goes and gets the actual content and begins playing.

Any time the AppleTV doesn't have the images or metadata (not available at all, or not, yet uploaded) it displays nothing or a generic icon.

Everything appears to be intelligently retrieved/buffered/cached within the AppleTV's SSD memory, so things you are using (images, metadata, content) tend get there first and to remain the longest on the AppleTV.

All-in-all, it creates quite a nice effect.

I think that iTunes is doing a lot of the heavy lifting -- parsing XML, extracting metadata, forming ever more useful packages (e.g., more and higher-res images) of data to send to the AppleTV.

The Apple TV just buffers what it can, and displays the best info it has available.

We have a pretty well-defined relationship and reliable, predictable WiFi connection between the iTunes and AppleTV. ITunes understands this and can exploit the AppleTV's capabilities -- e.g. fill SSD with covers to make the animation work as seamless as possible.

It may be that Apple has some future plans to let iTunes stream to iDevices using the same technique.

But it will be more difficult, as iTunes will not have:
-- a predictable and reliable wireless connection (WiFi or 3G)
-- the ability to exploit all the resources of the iDevice (CPU, GPU, WiFi and 3G radios, RAM, SSD storage.

So, I'd be willing to bet that iTunes streaming to an iDevice (other than an AppleTV) will limit the metadata and only use the lo-res images for menus -- with no animation.

In simpler words:

The AppleTV is a willing slave that asks and gets bitch-slapped around by iTunes.

An iDevice is more of a hired hand that will do iTunes beckoning -- if it can, and within reason. It reserves the right to tell iTunes that it (iTunes) is working (streaming) to fast and to back off (try a lower resolution/frame rate). And I ain't got no time or room to do this highfaluting CoverFlow animation crap!

... Or, I could be wrong!
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post #25 of 27
Sounds kind of like Beyond Good & Evil's text entry interface:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euquOpUmUyk
post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by caliminius View Post

I'm not sure if you're joking or not, but that's how adding album to an mp3 album works. Except of course in iTunes where Apple decided to throw it all into a database that makes all that data inaccessible to every other program. Maybe it's more efficient to store it all in a database, but the paranoid part of me feels Apple did it to make moving away from iTunes a big pain in the butt.

lol no I wasn't joking, and the only reason I thought this is because of how I see my album art stored in the directories with my mp3s, not binded to the file like tag data is.
post #27 of 27
This is so not going to work. Prime Location use this interface on their iPad App and it sucks hard!
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