updated 09:50 am EDT, Thu July 19, 2007
Apple Media Remote Patent
Apple has been researching technology that would let the iPhone or the iPod double as a remote control for steering playback of music and videos on the Apple TV or other media hubs, according to a new patent filing. The application, originally submitted in December 2005, would let a wireless portable media player synchronized with a server and tell that server to play files based on metadata such as the song name, album, or genre; the server in turn relays its sound to a stereo or a TV using either a wireless method such as the company's AirPort Express audio output feature or a direct, wired connection.
The system would eliminate many of the common complaints about network media streaming devices, according to Apple. Where typical solutions often require specialized extenders that quickly add to the cost by requiring controllers and individual converters, the described method would allow an existing handheld to navigate tracks using an existing wireless network. This would also save the trouble for AirPort Express users of having to access their Mac or PC to change songs or videos, the company adds.
While the patent is not certain to translate into a finished product, its existence may let Apple update the iPhone and any future Wi-Fi iPods to have them check for computers on the local network and play locally-stored entertainment as long as the computers have direct access to the proper output. The Apple TV currently supports controlled streaming of music and imagery from other computers but so far can't be controlled intelligently by a network device. Slingplayer Mac achieves remote control by generating the infrared signals used by Apple TV's remote.
Other patents published today include a method wirelessly synchronizing media and other files between a wireless media player and a host computer by submitting a request and transferring only necessary updates across the network, and a second patent for a karaoke-like lyrics mode that displays song verses in time with the music itself.