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Apr 12, 2001
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Apple patent applications tend to cover a broad set of topics, including many research items that never make their way out of the labs. A new one found this morning, however, is more interesting than usual given the recent rumors of an Apple television.

The application is titled "Configurable Remote Control" and is detailed by PatentlyApple.




In the application, Apple describes the use of the iPhone as a self-configuring universal remote for your home entertainment system. Specifically, they suggest using the iPhone's camera to take a photo of your existing remote, and then comparing that photo to a database of known remotes.
The method may begin by obtaining an input that may be used to identify the electronic device that is to be controlled, such as by using image processing techniques to compare the captured image against a database of known devices.
Apple acknowledges the iPhone in question would also need IR transmission capabilities. The patent application is dated from 2010.

Apple has been widely expected to use voice-recognition in their rumored Apple Television. As with many patent applications, we don't necessarily think this concept will make its way into production. Still, it shows Apple's research interests into home entertainment systems and seems relevant given the ongoing rumors of a Apple TV set.


Article Link: Apple Patent Shows Self Configuring iPhone as a Universal TV Remote
 

GroundLoop

macrumors 68000
Mar 21, 2003
1,580
54
Looks like we are getting close...

I guess I already have 6 remotes for my new Apple Television set (between iPads/iPhones/iPod Touches).

GL
 

bacaramac

macrumors 65816
Dec 29, 2007
1,424
99
Wirelessly posted

Would love to see what Apple could do on the universal remote front. I am constantly flipping between harmony link app and apple remote app.
 

rei101

macrumors 6502a
Dec 24, 2011
976
1
Yes, infrared. But that could be a very cheap accessory. The good news is that the iPhone would ve a very expensive remote control. Imagine the kids fighting for mom's iPhone.
 

Macman45

macrumors G5
Jul 29, 2011
13,197
134
Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
Not exactly new technology, I paid a fortune a while back for just such a "Universal" remote control...Trouble is it never really worked with everything. If it's Apple to Apple though we can expect better results.


The television aspect of the article is far more interesting though, I have a gut feeling we ARE going to see a super slick, feature rich product in this area from Apple soon. Trouble is the price tag is going to be just as super as the device itself.
 

lamina

macrumors 68000
Mar 9, 2006
1,756
66
Niagara
Wirelessly posted (iPhone 4)

I looked at the top of my iPhone 4 and pictured a tiny black dot for the IR transmitter.... and I smiled. I can definitely see this happening in the future, especially with battery technology improving.

The LED for the camera is blinding, and doesn't kill the battery too quickly. With more efficient LED tech, and an infrared filter in front of it, coupled with better battery technology, I can definitely see this coming to market.
 

FFArchitect

macrumors regular
Mar 14, 2010
196
0
Interesting to see what Apple has to tackle for the TV -- conventional receivers (and managing multiple connected devices/hardware in the typical HT setup), universal/legacy file format playback, live TV and cultivating an app ecosystem.

The storm is brewing somewhere.
 

NightFox

macrumors 68030
May 10, 2005
2,788
3,214
Shropshire, UK
Yes, infrared. But that could be a very cheap accessory. The good news is that the iPhone would ve a very expensive remote control. Imagine the kids fighting for mom's iPhone.

I've recently equipped my flat with a TV, stereo and BR player, all of which can be controlled from my iPhone by various apps via wifi as an alternative to the manufacturer's IR remotes. With 'smart' versions of common home entertainment equipment becoming more and more the norm, I think the IR requirement is going to become less and less an issue over the next couple of years.
 

pmjoe

macrumors 6502
Mar 27, 2009
463
32
So, this is basically a patent for a mechanism to steal someone else's remote control design?
 

MisterMe

macrumors G4
Jul 17, 2002
10,709
65
USA
Amazing. This does not say anything about the final prospects of an Apple HDTV. However, it does tell us that Apple is seriously researching the idea. iOS handheld devices have the potential to make superb universal remotes that emulate every function of the native remote for each component. I would have thought that the way to do this is for the owner to give the device's model number. I would have not thought of using the built-in camera for recognition. No matter how hard you try to get ahead of Apple, Apple manages to get one step ahead.
 

longofest

Editor emeritus
Jul 10, 2003
2,897
1,603
Falls Church, VA
Voice recognition seems cool, but I'm still not certain about it.

All of siri's voice recognition and analytics is done in the cloud. There have been a number of times when siri's cloud portion goes down (or when internet connectivity is down - ISP outage). If Apple relied on Siri to be your remote, you couldn't do anything with your TV... Imagine trying to change the volume:

"Siri, Turn it down a tadd"
"Sorry... I can't understand you right now... I can't connect to my server"

Yeah... that would suck. Unless they find a way to put all of the analytics in the TV itself, I'm just not sold on a Siri remote as the sole way of controlling an Apple TV. There has to be another method (like this) to control it.

On iPhone 4S, Siri is a cool extra where uptime is important. On the rumored AppleTV, Siri would be essential where uptime would be essential. Apple and cloud services uptime don't mix very well :eek:
 
I know Apple would never implement this feature exactly as indicated in this patent... but gross.

Can you imagine trying to work your massive cable remote with over 30 buttons on a 3.5 in' virtual screen? Either the buttons would be pin sized, tons of scrolling, or tons of sub menus (most likely). But any way you slice it it would be way more hassle than it's worth
 

whooleytoo

macrumors 604
Aug 2, 2002
6,603
695
Cork, Ireland.
That's an excellent idea.

As I understand it, it still needs quite a bit of work to maintain that database of existing remotes (not just recognising the remote, but building a list of the buttons, the relevant signal for each command, a UI to display on-screen for that remote etc).

To me, it doesn't sound much better than simply selecting a device from a list (particularly if the photo recognition wasn't perfectly reliable).

If Apple just sells the ATV, they're only selling another device to plug into the clutter of boxes and cables and remotes. If they sell a TV with an iOS device as a controller, it opens the possibility of a much, much cleaner, tidier solution.

I have remotes coming out my wazoo at the moment: TV, AV Receiver, Cable box, ATV, HDMI switch, PS3 controller (for Bluray) and PS3 game controller, 360 game controller and 360 remote (for powering down the box when it freezes, can't be done from a games controller). Aaaah...
 

Diode

macrumors 68020
Apr 15, 2004
2,442
121
Washington DC
IR needs to go away. With so many Blu-Rays, game consoles, receivers, set top boxes and TV's offering web connectivity - WIFI should be the new remote standard.
 

longofest

Editor emeritus
Jul 10, 2003
2,897
1,603
Falls Church, VA
I know Apple would never implement this feature exactly as indicated in this patent... but gross.

Can you imagine trying to work your massive cable remote with over 30 buttons on a 3.5 in' virtual screen? Either the buttons would be pin sized, tons of scrolling, or tons of sub menus (most likely). But any way you slice it it would be way more hassle than it's worth

I don't think that's what Apple is going for. I think Apple is trying to identify what kind of system you have by your remote, and then it would map the important features from your original remote to the fancy apple remote.
 

Macman45

macrumors G5
Jul 29, 2011
13,197
134
Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
I've recently equipped my flat with a TV, stereo and BR player, all of which can be controlled from my iPhone by various apps via wifi as an alternative to the manufacturer's IR remotes. With 'smart' versions of common home entertainment equipment becoming more and more the norm, I think the IR requirement is going to become less and less an issue over the next couple of years.

I really hope you are right...Lounge room:

1 Remote for Toshiba Smart TV

1 remote for DTS system

1 Apple TV3 remote

1 HDD recorder remote


Same in the bedroom, only plus one for a DVD player...A one shot solution that actually works would be a blessing.
 

GroundLoop

macrumors 68000
Mar 21, 2003
1,580
54
But you wouldn't want it to simply replicate the other remotes. This is where the Logitech Harmony is strong. It combines the features of the individual remotes so that everything is seamless (ie the volume buttons control the AV Receiver, the channel buttons control the cable box, etc).

GL
 

Ciclismo

macrumors 6502a
Jun 15, 2010
829
67
Germany
I have a habit of losing my remotes. If my phone became my remote, chances are that I would lose that then as well.
 

kdarling

macrumors P6
My 2005 Samsung WinMo smartphone came with a universal IR remote app built-in.

i730_remote.png

Of course, all-touchscreen remotes are only good for casual use.

A remote meant for constant usage, has to have at least some physical programmable buttons as well.

Like many, I have every remote in the house memorized by touch, and can pick one up in the dark, flip it to the right orientation, and at least surf channels / change volume by feel. I can also stop/rewind/play etc by touch. The last thing you want to do is peer at a screen each time.
 

SPUY767

macrumors 68020
Jun 22, 2003
2,035
123
GA
Wirelessly posted (iPhone 4)

I looked at the top of my iPhone 4 and pictured a tiny black dot for the IR transmitter.... and I smiled. I can definitely see this happening in the future, especially with battery technology improving.

The LED for the camera is blinding, and doesn't kill the battery too quickly. With more efficient LED tech, and an infrared filter in front of it, coupled with better battery technology, I can definitely see this coming to market.

WhY does the battery tech need to improve? Remotes today last a year or more on a single set of two double a batteries. I can't imagine that an infrared LED would use all that much battery.
 

lamina

macrumors 68000
Mar 9, 2006
1,756
66
Niagara
Wirelessly posted (iPhone 4)

You're right. I was just imaging them putting a super bright IR LED in there so that the hole can be tiny, or even invisible like they do on the magic trackpad for its LED. If they keep with the huge emitters found in remotes, it would be too big for a phone. Maybe they'll come up with a really tiny but powerful emitter.
 
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