updated 02:00 am EDT, Fri October 7, 2011
Combines 'silent disco' with 'mobile clubbing'
Apple yesterday was awarded a patent describing embodiments of a "coordinated group music experience," a technique that combines two emerging entertainment forms, referred to in the patent as "silent disco" and "mobile clubbing." All three involve sharing music wirelessly to personal devices that are then relayed to the user via headphones. Apple's patent describes a way for participants to enjoy music together, but not necessarily the same music at the same time.
A "silent disco" consists of a DJ playing music on a host device that is then broadcast wirelessly to other devices and listened to by participants on headphones. All participants are listening to the same music at the same time, sometimes in places where playing music without headphones would be disruptive (or to allow the party to continue later than would otherwise be allowed under noise laws), other times as an alternative to the ambient noise in an environment. Chicago's recent North Coast Music Festival used trance music-based "silent disco" as an alternative option for people who didn't want to hear the live performers for a period of time for whatever reason.
"Mobile clubbing" is a slightly different concept, where people gather together for the experience of a shared music experience but are each listening to their own playlists of music, having only coordinated the time and place. This has been used in flash mobs and apartment parties where participants can share headphones and sample other music if desired, or simply listen to their own music in a social gathering and dance.
Apple's patent describes a system where participants could opt for either of the two concepts, or a third one: using a "shared music characteristic" (generally the tempo, or beats per minute) to bring different musical selections in sync wirelessly. Participants could, for example, all be dancing in sync but listening to different songs. Listeners could also opt to make connections in a sort of peer-to-peer ad-hoc streaming network, sharing the same music wirelessly for a while or change back to listening to different music. The stream could consist only of information needed to keep the various players in sync, or actually stream the music as needed.
A possible implementation of Apple's idea would be an aerobics class where the instructor has the option of sharing the song they are listening to with those who want it, but those who don't can listen to a song from their own library that is beat-matched to what the instructor is listening to, meaning they stay in sync with their movements.
The application lists Sylvain Rene Yves Lesboutin as the sole inventor of the concept, and it was originally filed on March 31st, 2010 and is numbered 20110245944.