Apple Patent Shows Self Configuring iPhone as a Universal TV Remote

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.

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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.

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Top Rated Comments

badtzwang Avatar
161 months ago
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

Downranked for the humble brag.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
longofest Avatar
161 months ago
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 :o
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NightFox Avatar
161 months ago
Personally, given the choice of an iOS all-in-one remote or a dedicated device like a Harmony One, I'd go for the latter.

Imagine you just want to turn the volume down in the middle of a TV show: with an iPhone you'd need to wake the device with the top button, swipe to unlock it (maybe even have to enter a PIN code), launch the app, wait and press the volume button. With a dedicated remote, you just grab the remote and press the button.

I imagine Apple would come up with a clever solution, but I can't see it coming close enough to a real remote convenience-wise. As I said in an earlier post, lots of my home entertainment equipment can be controlled by iOS apps but after having played with them a bit for the novelty factor, I don't use them any more, it's just so much easier using the physical remotes.

I agree that the setup suggested might be easier than something like the Harmony One (especially for non-techies) and that an iOS control could potentially offer even greater functionality, but I'm not convinced just how practical it would be.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Diode Avatar
161 months ago
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.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Macman45 Avatar
161 months 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.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macUser2007 Avatar
161 months ago
This is a great illustration of the wacky patent issuing situation in the US (and some other places).

Virtually every feature in Apple's patent has been implemented by other companies before. But Apple goes to the patent office, the patent office bends over, then a few years from now Apple will sue some start up for patent infringement.

The patent system is screwed up and cash rich corporations are taking full advantage of it.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)