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Patent reveals universal Apple wireless touch-screen remote

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 
Apple Computer recently researched and developed a wireless touch-screen remote control concept that would automatically discover and communicate with existing and future consumer electronics appliances as well as the personal computer, a filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office has revealed.

The invention, titled "apparatus and method to facilitate universal remote control," is described in an April 2002 patent filing as a universal remote control with display screen that is capable of communicating wirelessly with digital lifestyle applications running on a computer in addition home electronics appliances such as a television, stereo, VCR and DVD player.

A wireless communication mechanism built into the remote would allow the device to automatically detect appliances within range. Once an appliance is detected, the remote would request a set of user-interface controls from the appliance and then make those controls accessible to the user via graphics on the remote's touch-screen.

According to the filing, each appliance -- such as a DVD player or iTunes app -- need only be discovered once. Discovered appliances would be added to a list of controllable items on the remote's touch-screen. When a user selects a specific appliance from the touch-screen menu, a set of interface controls pertinent to that appliance would appear on the screen. Devices that fall out of range of the remote would be represented by grayed listings.

In order to automate discovery and the transfer of user interface controls from third party appliances to the remote, the designer, Alberto Vidal of Los Gatos, Calif., called for a combination of Bluetooth wireless technology, markup languages like XML, and protocols such as HTTP. In one example provided by the filing, interface controls would be delivered from the appliances to the remote via XML tags.

"Manufacturers have created so-called universal remote controls, which can be trained to mimic several remote controls, and can then control each appliance for which they have been trained," the filing reads in part. "While universal remote controls attempt to address the problem of multiple remote controls, these devices are even more complex to operate, further confusing the user. Additionally, a universal remote control may not be able to duplicate every command sequence designed into a remote control designed for the appliance, and for future appliances."

While the Apple invention attempts to alleviate the confusion and clutter of multiple remotes or incomplete universal remotes, it does not appear to rely on a set of standards broad enough to ensure success with the majority of existing consumer electronics. Still, rumors as recent as last May suggest that Apple continues to experiment with wireless display-based remotes. Specifically, the company is rumored to have worked on a remote to control iTunes playlists over wireless connections. Its release may still be pending.

In addition to a detailed description of the remote, the Apple patent filing includes a handful of concept designs and flow charts (seen below) depicting the device and its functionality. However, no detailed renderings of the remote's form-factor are provided.

post #2 of 53
After dealing with a few so called "universal" remote controls, I truly hope that Apple does release something like this. I list my desires as follows:

1. Touchscreen design, ala Bose's touchscreen remote for its top of the line systems.

2. Online database of codes to simplify programming.

3. IR and RF control.

4. User configurable layout for virtual "buttons" on the display.

5. Cradle/display stand to showcase the remote and to make it a showpiece in a home theater.
post #3 of 53
edit: duplicate post
post #4 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by Kishan
After dealing with a few so called "universal" remote controls, I truly hope that Apple does release something like this. I list my desires as follows:

1. Touchscreen design, ala Bose's touchscreen remote for its top of the line systems.

2. Online database of codes to simplify programming.

3. IR and RF control.

4. User configurable layout for virtual "buttons" on the display.

5. Cradle/display stand to showcase the remote and to make it a showpiece in a home theater.

I second the motion. This is exactly what I want too.
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post #5 of 53
Well, yeah, to be truly universal it would at least need to have IR and RF. BT would be the cherry on top to make it work wit every app on the computer (Sailings on steroids).
post #6 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by kim kap sol
Well, yeah, to be truly universal it would at least need to have IR and RF. BT would be the cherry on top to make it work wit every app on the computer (Sailings on steroids).

WiFi could be a nice addtion as well... especially if coupled with some new version of airport express that ties into iHome...
post #7 of 53
Anyone remember that "tablet" patent application Apple got a couple months back?
post #8 of 53
Sounds like a cross between Bluetooth, HAVi, and Harmony. I like it.
post #9 of 53
I've actually seen a prototype of the remote. It was years ago, and made by a different company, but Apple bought them and it sounds almost exactly the same.

At the time Bluetooth wasn't out, so the remote had a base station that connected to other components through a FireWire network. They had it working with Kenwood gear. When you plugged in a device it automatically showed up on the screen as an icon. When you pressed the icon it's interface would show up. Each device would publish it's capabilities for the remote (play, record, volume, channel, etc).

It was nice, but pretty primitive at the time (not just the interface, but the piece of plywood it was built on). With Bluetooth or WiFi, Rendezvous, oops... I mean OpenTalk, oops... I mean Bonjour, and XML I can see how it would be much, much better now. Having an application appear as a device is a nice feature.
post #10 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by Kesh
Anyone remember that "tablet" patent application Apple got a couple months back?

Yeah, I was hopeing that the special event, (that now is cancelled or something???) would be realleasing a tablet... but i guess maybe this is it instead. :-( This sounds pretty cool though.

I hope this is designed to control an iHome like product or a mac mini, plus your DVD player, VCR, TV. etc. etc.
post #11 of 53
I want one for me and my little dog Toto too. Sounds like a PDA with remote control sensing. I was thinking the same thing w_parietti22. Could be the 'Tablet' is a part of this. I wonder if it could support security codes. Like the v-chip but for other equipment you don't want others to operate. Like starting you car in the winter.\
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post #12 of 53
Sorry, but no "touchscreen" remote will ever feel as good in my hand as a good, dedicated remote with physical buttons and a good layout. TiVo being the standout in terms of remotes right now. I need the feedback of a real, discrete button moving through real travel. It's the exact reason why, as much as I like my iGesture NumPad (RIP, Fingerworks), I've deprogrammed all the virtual cursor and numeric pad keys on it in favor of using the keypads on my keyboard. Real buttons provide tactile feedback, which means touch is added on top of sight and sound. More feedback via more senses is always better.
post #13 of 53
While I'd be the first to say how cool an iTunes remote is, and yeah it makes sense to integrate control of other home entertainment devices as well, I just don't think the remote in and of itself justifies Apple's attentions. I just don't believe that the market would bear the cost Apple would charge for the fully developed device.

However, I do believe they should integrate this technology into a 8-10 inch tablet, that serves as a "couch web/email client," as well as an AV remote. The icing on the cake would be to integrate it with a TiVo styled device (or TiVO itself) and allow thumbnail previews/channel listings on the display, as well as an iTunes interface. That, in my opinion, would grab a lot of media/consumer attention, and justify a high enough price point for Apple to make their customary 30% on.

This device would also tie in nicely with controlling downloaded video-on-demand content, when/if Apple takes that bait.
post #14 of 53
for those of you on here who can't wait for a good universal remote, check out the logitech harmony series. Sorry to sound like a salesman and all, but I picked up the $250 one from bestbuy the other day and now my whole family can actually use the TV.

If apple offered a remote that worked as easily with the harmony with built in Wi-Fi, RF, Bluetooth and some way to control airtunes, I would buy one in an instant.
post #15 of 53
Combine this baby with a mac mini, a kick-ass home-theater system and a plasma TV, and you're all good.

Does anyone know just how universal this remote will be? (ie: can it control my sony reciever, dvd player etc...)?
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post #16 of 53
My pet theory/fantasy for the Apple remote? It's just Dashboard with some added hooks for infrared. Control iTunes? Already a widget for it. Check TiVo listings? Use the widget that's already written to do that. Remote control for your TV? Just write a widget for it.
post #17 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by mynamehere
Combine this baby with a mac mini, a kick-ass home-theater system and a plasma TV, and you're all good.

Does anyone know just how universal this remote will be? (ie: can it control my sony reciever, dvd player etc...)?

If it does control my "Hermstedt" Music center,
i'd be a happy camper.
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post #18 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by zpapasmurf
for those of you on here who can't wait for a good universal remote, check out the logitech harmony series. Sorry to sound like a salesman and all, but I picked up the $250 one from bestbuy the other day and now my whole family can actually use the TV.

If apple offered a remote that worked as easily with the harmony with built in Wi-Fi, RF, Bluetooth and some way to control airtunes, I would buy one in an instant.

very neat and tempting remote... does it do RF?
post #19 of 53
This is something I have wanted for ages, truly universal remote, It need's to talk to the appliances. It's about time world finally get's rid of those shitty IR remotes, RF remotes are a step to the right direction, but they still aren't standard. Next thing we need is appliances to start talking with each other. Why the hell if im having a home theather with DVD, TV and stereo system, I have to use theree different volume controls????? I should just be able to push play from one remote and the system should figure out if its a DVD put my tv on and to the right channel, and also turn on my stereos. Thats really not so hard to do.
post #20 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by mynamehere
Combine this baby with a mac mini, a kick-ass home-theater system and a plasma TV, and you're all good.

Does anyone know just how universal this remote will be? (ie: can it control my sony reciever, dvd player etc...)?

Wait, you want a kick-ass home theater and plasma TV, then use an underpowered limited MacMini with this? For what? Its got no video inputs, lame audio output, only works if your big screen TV has a DVI port that meets current specs (sorry, mine doesn't). And then its just got a lame 40 GB slow hard drive and a lame G4 processor. Not really going to have room on this thing to store movies or the like, nor the power to do HD TV.

Why is it everyone's always looking to merge some device into their systems just because they think it's Apple or something, not because it'll actually be useful.

And don't get your hopes up on Apple releasing one of these things. Apple, like any company, files patents for everything they do, whether they actually decide to implement it or not.

And I have to agree with Kolchak. Buttons, people need buttons. Hell, one of the biggest complaints on the iPod line was when Apple went to the 3G model with the non-clicking buttons that people could hit without realizing it. Plus, how do you feel your way in your darkened room to hit the volume keys or the pause button on a touch screen? You'd always have to look at it to make sure you're pressing in the right area!
post #21 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by bubba451
My pet theory/fantasy for the Apple remote? It's just Dashboard with some added hooks for infrared. Control iTunes? Already a widget for it. Check TiVo listings? Use the widget that's already written to do that. Remote control for your TV? Just write a widget for it.

Great idea/theory/fantasy! Taking this one step further:

Add a hard drive into the "remote", call it the "video iPod" and watch the sales explode.
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post #22 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by Project2501
This is something I have wanted for ages, truly universal remote, It need's to talk to the appliances. It's about time world finally get's rid of those shitty IR remotes, RF remotes are a step to the right direction, but they still aren't standard. Next thing we need is appliances to start talking with each other. Why the hell if im having a home theather with DVD, TV and stereo system, I have to use theree different volume controls????? I should just be able to push play from one remote and the system should figure out if its a DVD put my tv on and to the right channel, and also turn on my stereos. Thats really not so hard to do.

I don't know, why would you have to use three different volume controls? Your DVD player has its own volume settings? That seems whacked. I certainly don't have some high-end theater system, but my TV remote easily controls my DVD player, HD receiver, stereo, and VCR (yes, I got one of them suckers too!). One control, mute the tv, flip a switch turn on stereo, flip switch, turn on DVD player, hit play.

Sure, it can't do all the features, but no universal remote will completely replace the remote of these devices.
post #23 of 53
I suggest that we look to the forth coming release of The Salling Clicker for evidence. It will "greatly expand Clickers capabilities with support for new devices and new functionality."

We could ask what kind of new functionality can it possibly offer? The program is completely scriptable, so it doesn't seem like there is anything else it could gives us. But, if we look to a "new device" that would allow for "new functionality" that is hardware based, then that would provide for new features.

Joseph is billing v 3.0 as a "major new release" so...
post #24 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by Kesh
Anyone remember that "tablet" patent application Apple got a couple months back?

Yeah, and then there was that patent outlining the principles and design of docking an iPod into portable computers. And then there was that patent on antenna and connector interfaces for docking an iPod into a special housing/case. And then there was that patent on controlling streamed content from limited sources like slow hard drives that would also spin down to save on battery life and the hard drive's life.

And then there was that release of iTunes(4.9) that not only gave us podcasting but also vodcasting.

Say you had downloaded one of those videocasts to your iPod and wanted to also watch the content. Maybe in the future we could just snap the iPod into a handheld/next generation iBook/iTablet/remote control type thing with the decoding power and a viewable screen and then watch that videocast.
post #25 of 53
I think it's funny how Bill Gates has all of a sudden started trumpeting the Tablet PC again. I thought he was going to let it slowly and quietly die out so as not to bring any more attention to his failure (he should anyway, its been 4 years and the Windows Tablet has gone no where). The last couple weeks, it's all he talks about, "I still believe in the Talet PC", blah, blah, blah. Yeah, hhhhhh, as soon as you got wind that Apple was making one.
post #26 of 53
There's no reason you couldn't have a smooth touch screen but wherever the buttons appear onscreen, the remote vibrates when your finger is in a button and thumps a little when pressed. Force feedback mixed with touch screen, why not? If it's cheap enough for PS2/XBOX controllers and cell phones, I think Apple could make it work.

Thump when you pass over the edge of a button.
Vibrate slightly when you are inside a button (and fade out once you stop moving).
Thump when you press a button.
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post #27 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by johnq
There's no reason you couldn't have a smooth touch screen but wherever the buttons appear onscreen, the remote vibrates when your finger is in a button and thumps a little when pressed. Force feedback mixed with touch screen, why not? If it's cheap enough for PS2/XBOX controllers and cell phones, I think Apple could make it work.

Thump when you pass over the edge of a button.
Vibrate slightly when you are inside a button (and fade out once you stop moving).
Thump when you press a button.

Or they could be super silly and have real buttons but with little LCDs on each of them that change based on which device is selected.

This remote will probably cost like $300 anyway, so it's moot for guys like me to suggest features..
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post #28 of 53
For now I would be happy with Griffen Technology or Belkin or Apple for that matter coming up with an iPod accessory similar to iTrip except instead of putting out radio frequencies. it would actually find my stereo hooked up to my airport express and allow me to play my music wirelessy to that stereo. thus making my ipod my universal remote. (for music anyways).

WHY CANT THIS BE DONE? I wish I had access to capital. I would invent it myself.
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post #29 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by rongold
Say you had downloaded one of those videocasts to your iPod and wanted to also watch the content. Maybe in the future we could just snap the iPod into a handheld/next generation iBook/iTablet/remote control type thing with the decoding power and a viewable screen and then watch that videocast.

Or better yet, rather than using this new fangled remote to turn on the television, then turn on the DVD, then switch it over to select it and then hitting play, you could just hit the play button for the iPod and it beams the content to the TV. OK, THAT probably won't happen.
post #30 of 53
That's pretty weird. afalkner and I posted the same idea at the same time.
post #31 of 53
Weirder yet, afalkner is also from Minneapolis.
post #32 of 53
Guys, streaming media wirelessly from an iPod is not The Way.

- You don't want the media on the controller:
- Wears out the iPod battery
- Annoying lag to wait for Airport Express to decompress the signal
- If the iPod is the remote -and- portable player, they you are stuck without a remote if your wife goes for a jog with your iPod.
- Why risk damaging the iPod's HDD, since remotes get thrown around so much.

No, better to have an iPod-like remote that only downloads the playlist/Library data from a remote Mac/PC or some new media center thingy or new Airport with a HDD in it or some such.

This way the drive can be flash and smaller. And the battery life is maximized and the signal passes instantly.
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post #33 of 53
RonGold that is pretty weirderer!

My idea was rooted in the fact that last weekend I was cleaning the house and listening to tunes. Every room i moved to i just moved my powerbook with me and directed my tune selction from there. Thats when it hit me. Why cant my ipod connect to my airport express? why do i have to carry around my laptop? Why cant i attatch something to the bottom of my ipod, then in menu go to airport connections > select my air port express in the living room > and presto my ipod would play over the speakers in my living room. This seems pretty easy to me. Im not talking about it being the end all, work all remote. I just want to play music to a stereo hooked up to my air port express wirelessly from my ipod like i do from my laptop..
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post #34 of 53
Quote:
Sorry, but no "touchscreen" remote will ever feel as good in my hand as a good, dedicated remote with physical buttons and a good layout.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Buttons do feel better than a touchscreen. You have the tactile feel of pushing something and feeling resistance.

On the other hand most Universal Remotes are a complete mess of buttons meant to cover nearly every possible scenario.

The advantage of a touch screen is the ability to change the screen to meet the needs of different appliances, with out the unergonomic confusing buttons cluttering the face of the remote.

Plus Apple owning the patent on the click wheel, could place this feature on their remote and cover some of the functions that too many buttons traditionally do.

Quote:
However, I do believe they should integrate this technology into a 8-10 inch tablet, that serves as a "couch web/email client," as well as an AV remote.

I don't know. I'm more a fan of the hand held remote. Sony has those big touch screen remotes you have to operate with two hands. They are too large, and bulky.


Quote:
Wait, you want a kick-ass home theater and plasma TV, then use an underpowered limited MacMini with this? For what? Its got no video inputs, lame audio output, only works if your big screen TV has a DVI port that meets current specs (sorry, mine doesn't). And then its just got a lame 40 GB slow hard drive and a lame G4 processor. Not really going to have room on this thing to store movies or the like, nor the power to do HD TV.


You assume the Mac mini won't evolve from what it is today. In fact there is a rumor floating around that Mac mini's won't be using a G4 at all by next year. We're waiting for conformation on that one.

As far as video/audio input output it doesn't get any better than DVI to HDMI, pretty much everything else is a lesser option. Also Apple likes the simplicity of one wire doing the job of many.
post #35 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by johnq
There's no reason you couldn't have a smooth touch screen but wherever the buttons appear onscreen, the remote vibrates when your finger is in a button and thumps a little when pressed.

Or better yet, the remote gives you an electric-shock when your finger clicks a button.
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post #36 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by johnq

Thump when you pass over the edge of a button.
Vibrate slightly when you are inside a button (and fade out once you stop moving).
Thump when you press a button.

Is this the famous iBrator?
post #37 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by TenoBell
As far as video/audio input output it doesn't get any better than DVI to HDMI, pretty much everything else is a lesser option. Also Apple likes the simplicity of one wire doing the job of many.

The mac mini has a DVI input ?? Wow that must really be something.

The truth is: most people don't need and wont buy a digital TV right now, including me.

The mac mini is a TERRIBLE A/V solution as it is right now.

It needs to have all those silly plugs that are on the back of even $50 DVD players these days, and it needed them when it came out.

Component, S-Video, RCA audio, Optical Audio, and that's just the OUTPUTS. For inputs, it needs S-Video, RCA audio, Optical audio (since it's cheap to put in, anyway), and possibly RF with an HD tuner.

Yes, I know you can just buy an EyeTV500, but then that crappy G4 and worthless 5400 RPM HD are going to neuter the damn thing (NO Hi-Def FOR YOU!).

Luckily, I happen to own a G5 powermac, otherwise A/V would be a fruitless endevor on my mac. I'd just buy a $50 upgrade to my PC and do some software tomfoolery, which would still cost me less than the Mac Mini.
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post #38 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by slughead
Or they could be super silly and have real buttons but with little LCDs on each of them that change based on which device is selected.

This remote will probably cost like $300 anyway, so it's moot for guys like me to suggest features..

I don't think that is as far off as it sounds. Take an iPod click wheel, small color screen for menus and maybe 6-8 rtransparent buttons that sit atop another lcd screen, maybe it can be done.
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post #39 of 53
Quote:
Originally posted by Louzer
Wait, you want a kick-ass home theater and plasma TV, then use an underpowered limited MacMini with this? For what? Its got no video inputs, lame audio output, only works if your big screen TV has a DVI port that meets current specs (sorry, mine doesn't). And then its just got a lame 40 GB slow hard drive and a lame G4 processor. Not really going to have room on this thing to store movies or the like, nor the power to do HD TV.

Why is it everyone's always looking to merge some device into their systems just because they think it's Apple or something, not because it'll actually be useful.

And don't get your hopes up on Apple releasing one of these things. Apple, like any company, files patents for everything they do, whether they actually decide to implement it or not.

And I have to agree with Kolchak. Buttons, people need buttons. Hell, one of the biggest complaints on the iPod line was when Apple went to the 3G model with the non-clicking buttons that people could hit without realizing it. Plus, how do you feel your way in your darkened room to hit the volume keys or the pause button on a touch screen? You'd always have to look at it to make sure you're pressing in the right area!

or I could get the model with the 80GB HD, or upgrade it myself, or add a fw drive or...or...or...

Me wanting to use this might have something to do with my current PII system hooked up to my TV. I don't need video input, and I could buy an external sound card (probably would anyway for surround sound). And "lame" G4 processor is still perfectly adequate for playing mp3's and video (not HD).

Don't be bitter...
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post #40 of 53
If tactile feedback is problem with lcd remotes (never used one myself) then I believe apple would use something very similar to this . If a remote simulated some sort of click or weird vibration for each button it wouldnt be a problem. I really dont think its much of an issue anyway. I know at least with my Home Theater remote that has a gazillion different buttons on it I dont ever look at it or feel for the buttons I just know where they are. If an lcd remote kept the buttons for each individual control "widget" in the same spot on the remote, people would insticively learn where these functions are over time.
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