Apple's still working on iChat video answering machine

Posted:
in macOS edited January 2014
Apple's implementation of a digital video answering machine, once destined for inclusion in an earlier version of Mac OS X, has been resurrected in a patent filing, suggesting the company may give the concept a second go in the near future.



Background



The feature would allow users of the Cupertino-based company's iChat messaging application to pre-record audio and video messages that would be provided to other users -- or "callers" -- when the recipient is away from their computer or tied up with other tasks.



This concept isn't entirely new, however. It first surfaced in pre-release builds of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard back in December of 2006 -- nearly a year before the operating system was released to the public with all traces of the feature removed.



In those pre-release builds, an "Answering" tab had been added to iChat's preference pane that allowed users to configure their digital answering machine. It provided an interface for recording video answering machine messages with built-in iSight cameras and instructing the chat application when to transmit the message to incoming callers.



For example, iChat could automatically respond to incoming callers with the pre-recorded video message when a user had their status set to "Away," or could choose to issue the video message manually when the status was set to "Available."







Video Answering Machine



In a 13-page patent filing published this week, Apple provided a detailed explanation of the technology with some new additions. In addition the aforementioned status preferences, the video message could be provided in response to a video chat request after a period of time had elapsed since receiving the video chat request, the company said.



Alternatively, the video message could be sent when no user input has been received for a period of time exceeding a threshold, meaning the recipient is likely away from their computer. Similarly, the message could be provided when the value of iChat's status indicator indicates a "do-not-disturb" status.







"Thus, the video chat system can be used as an always-on service without unnecessarily interrupting the user while the user is engaged in another chat session or another task," Apple explained. "The audio-video messaging services are provided using an answering machine-type application that is familiar to most users who have used conventional telephone answering machines."



Video Answering Machine Server



Taking the concept a bit further, Apple said video answering machine messages could be uploaded to a video chat server via the Internet. This would allow the video chat server to respond to any incoming chat requests with the video message even when the recipient isn't logged into their iChat account.







Callers could then respond to the pre-recorded video answering machine message with their own video message:



The responsive video message, in some implementations, can be stored in a video mailbox within the video chat server attached to the network connection. In this example, when the call recipient next connects to the network connection and activates the video chat component, some or all of the contents of the video mailbox can be downloaded or otherwise be made available to the computer for viewing by the call recipient.



Video answering machine messages could also be accessible by means other than or in addition to the video chat component, Apple added. For example, a call recipient could access video answering machine messages stored in a video mailbox within the video chat server through a web site or via a mobile phone application running on an iPhone.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    That's cool- perhaps added to the Apple TV? No need to boot up your computer.
  • Reply 2 of 41
    What about this being on the iPhone if a front facing camera gets added. It would add another meaning to visual voicemail.
  • Reply 3 of 41
    crees!crees! Posts: 501member
    Sounds like a MobileMe add-on is coming down the pike.
  • Reply 4 of 41
    kasperkasper Posts: 941member, administrator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by crees! View Post


    Sounds like a MobileMe add-on is coming down the pike.



    I thought this immediately, but figured I'd leave the speculation to you guys.







    Kasper
  • Reply 5 of 41
    jpellinojpellino Posts: 612member
    The mind boggles.
  • Reply 6 of 41
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,277member
    Cool, I'd like to use iChat more.

    Anyone out there actually using iChat? Is it just in the states where people use AIM? I don't know anyone using AIM (I'm living in Norway). Around here people are using Messenger. I tried with Jabber and iChat but it just wasn't very solid, nor supporting file transfer.. I just ended up using Adium.
  • Reply 7 of 41
    str1f3str1f3 Posts: 573member
    I agree that it sounds like MobileMe but I wonder about it long -term for the iPhone. When you look at MobileMe, it seems that apple is building a well-rounded alternative to Exchange and Google. I just wish they would open up the calendar so it could have some gcal features. An API for developers would also be nice.
  • Reply 8 of 41
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Sounds interesting, but I'd rather they make the exisisting apps (and web apps) more robust first. iCal and invitations are a mess, especially on the web app side. If they want the online apps to be anywhere near desktop app quality, they have a lot of work to do.
  • Reply 9 of 41
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by palegolas View Post


    Cool, I'd like to use iChat more.

    Anyone out there actually using iChat? Is it just in the states where people use AIM? I don't know anyone using AIM (I'm living in Norway). Around here people are using Messenger. I tried with Jabber and iChat but it just wasn't very solid, nor supporting file transfer.. I just ended up using Adium.



    I use iChat. I have a lot of friends who use Adium even in the States though. iChat is best for file transfers via aim and video/audio chat (not to mention address-book integration... a life-saver). Where Adium wins is in its plugins, and its smaller and less-obtrusive UI (not to mention they got tabbing right).
  • Reply 10 of 41
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    The first thing I thought of was iPhone OS X usage, though I don't foresee a front-facing camera for a couple of HW revisions.



    How could this be used with MobileMe?





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by palegolas View Post


    Cool, I'd like to use iChat more.

    Anyone out there actually using iChat? Is it just in the states where people use AIM? I don't know anyone using AIM (I'm living in Norway). Around here people are using Messenger. I tried with Jabber and iChat but it just wasn't very solid, nor supporting file transfer.. I just ended up using Adium.



    I use Adium because I need to tie into Y! Chat, MS' Messenger et al. not supported by iChat. Plus I really how I can make Adium completely out of the way. But I do some people, like my parents, who use iChat because they only use AIM.



    Unfortunately, as you mentioned, AIM is only really popular in the US, while MSN is popular around most of the Western world and Yahoo popular with some Asian countries (can't find chart of stats at this time). I hate having to keep multiple accounts, but Adium has made easy work of it. Looking forward to Meebo for the iPhone, actually.
  • Reply 11 of 41
    wheelhotwheelhot Posts: 465member
    Yup, in Asia, MSN and Yahoo is more popular, I bet some dont even know what is AIM... ,lets hope future version of iChat allows MSN
  • Reply 12 of 41
    utsavautsava Posts: 53member
    It's interesting that this is popping up now, with the heavy focus of new iPhone rumors on video. My speculation is the new iPhone will be the "iPhone Video". If Apple really wants to go "full-in" with this next rev of the iPhone, it could include video recording (maybe even 720p?) with basic video editing (even titles maybe?) on phone, a front facing video conferencing camera with direct integration into iChat. These video voicemail patents tie perfectly in with this and could fit nicely within "Visual Voicemail" on the phone. The new iPhone would be simultaneously released with a new version of iChat with all the hooks to support the video voicemail features and video chat with iPhone users... AND it will be simultaneously released for Windows.



    It all makes sense to me...the updated 7.2mbps or higher data connection on the iPhone would be put to good use. The beefier processor and updated camera would be able to handle the video more efficiently... The rumors that ATT expects a tenfold increase in data traffic...



    Apple are the only ones uniquely positioned to pull this off. Video conferencing has been on the brink for a while now, but never perfected in an easy and widespread solution. iChat would allow millions of people to video conference with the soon to be millions of new iPhone owners.



    That's my story... it will happen one day... I just don't know if its this June.
  • Reply 13 of 41
    justbobfjustbobf Posts: 261member
    I have iChat on all the time; still, I only have one friend, whom I rarely speak with, who does the same. All my other friends use Skype.
  • Reply 14 of 41
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wheelhot View Post


    Yup, in Asia, MSN and Yahoo is more popular, I bet some dont even know what is AIM... ,lets hope future version of iChat allows MSN



    I would think that if Apple wants to expand heavily into non-US markets that it will need to adopt other, popular IM clients. On the other hand, they seem to be foregoing a native Apple-built chat app on the iPhone (which my be because they don't have plans to support Yahoo and MS Messengers) so I doubt that they will be pushing iChat on Macs with multiple IM clients in the future unless they come up with some game changing idea.
  • Reply 15 of 41
    hillstoneshillstones Posts: 1,490member
    Wouldn't it be easier to allow text IM's to be sent when a user is offline or away? Doing a video message and then waiting for it to send sounds like a hassle. That type of content would slow down a cellular network too if they allowed it on the iPhone.



    Apple tried the "Answering Machine" concept in the 90's with the Quadra AV Macs. It was a flop. No one bothered with it.
  • Reply 16 of 41
    hillstoneshillstones Posts: 1,490member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by utsava View Post


    My speculation is the new iPhone will be the "iPhone Video". If Apple really wants to go "full-in" with this next rev of the iPhone, it could include video recording (maybe even 720p?)



    Wow, now that would be stupid. I don't think people are going to wait for Gigabytes of data just to see a video message, especially since the iPhone will never have a 720 resolution display. Nor would the cellular network be able to handle it. If people think it is slow now, video will make it even slower.



    Voice messages do just fine, like they always have.
  • Reply 17 of 41
    hillstoneshillstones Posts: 1,490member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I would think that if Apple wants to expand heavily into non-US markets that it will need to adopt other, popular IM clients. On the other hand, they seem to be foregoing a native Apple-built chat app on the iPhone (which my be because they don't have plans to support Yahoo and MS Messengers) so I doubt that they will be pushing iChat on Macs with multiple IM clients in the future unless they come up with some game changing idea.



    Apple doesn't need to waste their time with multiple chat support. There are already third party apps to handle that, both on the Mac and the iPhone.
  • Reply 18 of 41
    Expect a lawsuit for this one



    That looks awesome though!
  • Reply 19 of 41
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hillstones View Post


    Wow, now that would be stupid. I don't think people are going to wait for Gigabytes of data just to see a video message, especially since the iPhone will never have a 720 resolution display. Nor would the cellular network be able to handle it. If people think it is slow now, video will make it even slower.



    Voice messages do just fine, like they always have.



    I don't think we can expect 720 resolution display in the next iPhone, but eventually that will come. I do think that the next iPhone with a faster CPU and more RAM will be able to play 720p video natively which means you won't have to convert to SD versions anymore, if you choose not to. I think the next display upgrade will be a 2x pixel increase, or 50% increase in both width and length, making it 640x480.



    As for the size of a video message, They would only be a few Megabytes for a 30 second message. Figure a standard YouTube bitrate. I also think that the cellular network will be able to handle it as everything gets upgraded over time.
  • Reply 20 of 41
    teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    As for the size of a video message, They would only be a few Megabytes for a 30 second message. Figure a standard YouTube bitrate. I also think that the cellular network will be able to handle it as everything gets upgraded over time.



    Too bad it can't handle it already like Verizon. I record and message videos all the time - no problem. And that's not even on a 3G network. Pathetic AT&T.
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