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Apple patents take advanced universal remotes to the cloud

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Two recent Apple patent filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office outline a cloud-based system that could turn any camera-equipped iDevice into a virtual remote control for a number of electronic devices like TVs, DVD players and amplifiers.

In the first of the two patent applications, Apple describes how an iDevice could be configured to operate as a remote by taking a picture of the component to be controlled, uploading the image to the cloud for comparison and downloading the corresponding virtual remote control interface.

From patent abstract:
Quote:
In particular, in one embodiment, a method for configuring a multifunctional electronic device to operate as a remote control is provided that includes capturing an image of an electronic device and comparing the image with data stored in a database. The manufacturer of the electronic device is determined based on one or more identifying characteristics in the captured image and information related to remote control of the electronic device is retrieved. The method also includes populating a screen of the multifunctional electronic device for remote control of the electronic device.

The patent relies on the matching "identifying characteristics" like brand logos and device design with an off-site database to determine what equipment a user wants to remotely control. In addition, the invention allows a user to take a picture of the physical remote itself as an alternate discovery option.


An iDevice would photograph a piece of equipment to obtain remote control information. | Source: USPTO


Once a device is recognized, a fully customizable virtual remote interface is sent to the iDevice, complete with a method to test which IR code is compatible with the device. There was no mention as to how the IR codes would be beamed to the electronic component, but there are current third-part "IR blaster" adapters that can attach to iPhones, iPads and certain iPods.


Representation of a virtual remote on an iDevice. | Source: USPTO


The second patent involves a type of smart universal remote that would be able to recognize a component's operating state by using an iDevice's camera and microphone. In this invention, an iDevice would scan for colors, indicator lights, text and sound to determine whether a controlled piece of equipment accurately received and responded to a command.

From the patent abstract:
Quote:
Additionally, the device includes an input device configured to allow a user to provide input to the electronic device related to remote control and one or more sensors configured to obtain information related to a state of the remotely controlled device. The processor is configured to use the information obtained by the one or more sensors to determine the state of the remote controlled devices upon receiving the input from a user to transmit instructions.

When the virtual remote sends a signal, it will check a set of parameters on the controlled device like the location of on/off indicator lights, displayed text or sound cues to confirm that the command was accepted. If the transmission was unsuccessful, the remote will resend or perform a custom operation.

This patent also relies on a database located in the cloud to download the parameters needed for operation.


Flowchart of the proposed smart advanced universal remote's operation. | Source: USPTO


Like many of Apple's patents, the latest "smart advanced universal remote" applications may not find their way to hands of consumers, though it does show that the company is committing research and development money toward a push into customers' living rooms.

Apple is rumored to be working on a branded HDTV that will possibly incorporate Siri voice-recognition technology and customized content.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 11
I keep getting the feeling that we are no closer to Steve Jobs' vision of a TV than we were while he was living. No AppleTV for you!

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

Reply
post #3 of 11
Yaaay competition! Please wise up Logitech! Used to swear by harmony remotes but they have failed to innovate in the UI department for years now.
post #4 of 11
Though I'd like for Infrared to die asap, I guess legacy needs to be supported. And if Apple is creating a TV set, they will need to figure out a way to support users' other peripherals if they want to advertise the device as the one-stop device to go to.

Maybe they could insert that IR sensor behind the casing, like the battery indicators on a MBP and put the IR beamer in the headphone jack.
"Fibonacci: As easy as 1, 1, 2, 3..."
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"Fibonacci: As easy as 1, 1, 2, 3..."
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post #5 of 11
By the time I find that little IR attachment that keeps getting lost, find the app, and configure it for my set-top box, I could have just picked up the Verizon remote and be surfing on my 5th channel!
post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Though I'd like for Infrared to die asap, I guess legacy needs to be supported. And if Apple is creating a TV set, they will need to figure out a way to support users' other peripherals if they want to advertise the device as the one-stop device to go to.

Maybe they could insert that IR sensor behind the casing, like the battery indicators on a MBP and put the IR beamer in the headphone jack.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Applecation View Post

By the time I find that little IR attachment that keeps getting lost, find the app, and configure it for my set-top box, I could have just picked up the Verizon remote and be surfing on my 5th channel!

The secret is to have a standalone IR relay that controls the [older] TV, etc. -- that sits somewhere in the room. This relay is controlled by WiFi or BT 4 from the iPhone or iPad.
"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
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"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
- Michael Lille -
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post #7 of 11
What may be even more interesting is:

Taking a picture of something -- then using a computer repository of images, along with analysis software -- to figure out what that something is... How it works, what it costs, where to buy it...

This could apply to a can of peas in the supermarket, a car on the street... Lady Gaga...
"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
- Michael Lille -
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"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
- Michael Lille -
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post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

The secret is to have a standalone IR relay that controls the [older] TV, etc. -- that sits somewhere in the room. This relay is controlled by WiFi or BT 4 from the iPhone or iPad.

Like this?
-> http://www.griffintechnology.com/beacon
post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

What may be even more interesting is:

Taking a picture of something -- then using a computer repository of images, along with analysis software -- to figure out what that something is... How it works, what it costs, where to buy it...

This could apply to a can of peas in the supermarket, a car on the street... Lady Gaga...

You mean like Google Goggles and the many apps built around it. I can take a picture of a product or a bar code and my phone tells me if there is a cheaper place advertisd on the internet in a X km radius. Take a photo of a building / painting / statue and I get a history of the object etc. A photo of a restaurant give reviews. IF it is on the internet or in the cloud I can access extra information about the object.
post #10 of 11
So Google already have a system up and running to send you information based on recognising a photo, and numerous phones allow you to download and install remote control commands (especially Nokia N900 which has infrared output).

And now apple thinks combining these is innovative enough to apply for a patent!
post #11 of 11
So they are simply copying google goggles for a specific use.

A nice idea appreciated by the delinquent type I'm sure.
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