Apple patent depicts iPhone as self-programming TV remote

By , Mar 22, 2012

While most inventions depicted in Apple’s patents don’t usually end up in consumer products, they do provide an interesting look into the company’s R&D labs. Some are particularly entertaining when they fall in line with persistent rumors.

Such is the case with the new “Configurable Remote Control” patent, discovered this morning by PatentlyApple. The invention shows a method of using your iPhone as a self-programming universal TV remote…

During an interview in 2010, Steve Jobs said that the remote control situation going on in our living rooms today is ridiculous. We have one for the TV, one for the cable or satellite box, one for the DVD player and then one for the stereo.

Sure, there are hundreds of universal remotes on the market. But most of them are too complicated to use or too complexed to setup. That’s where Apple’s configurable remote comes in.

“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 know devices. For example, the control device may capture an image of the electronic device with its built-in camera. The control device may then identify the device that is to be controlled. For example, the control device may determine the make and/or model and/or the type of the device to be controlled.”

Yeah, you read it right. Apple is talking about using your iPhone (or similar device) to take a picture of an existing remote, and then converting that image into an usable touch screen remote control. Talk about easy programming.

Given the amount of chatter we’ve heard over the past few months regarding an Apple-branded TV set, it’s quite possible that this patent could surface in the future. And we’re hoping it does, because admittedly, this is pretty cool.

[MacRumors]

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  • Anonymous

    I just used my iPhone last night to control my new Apple TV 2!!!

    It was pretty plain, just like the remote that comes with the Apple TV, but it worked and it was COOL!!!

    However, what PatentlyApple found and iDB reported here is just AWESOME!!!!

    Currently, I have a pretty “simple” entertainment system, nothing fancy at all, but I have a remote for: 1) Comcast Cable
    2) Panasonic DVR
    3) Old Stereo System
    4) Old TV (CRT style – don’t ask!!! LOL)
    5) Apple TV 2

    So, to be able to consolidate those 5 remotes in to my Apple iPhone4 would be awesome, especially since I’m always jugling my remotes on my night stand anyways!!!

  • Siddharth Desai

    I will start masturbating to Apple the day this happens.

    • Anonymous

      that is too funny!!! LOL

    • Anonymous

      LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/reanimationxp Drew Alden

    Uhh.. they can’t patent this, sorry. L5 anyone? They’ve had a self-designable learning IR remote app for years.. though taking a picture of your existing remote and doing an image comparison to get the codes would be a good idea. Only caveat would be that manufacturers often share remotes, but that would imply the devices probably share codes as well, so it may work great.

    Wish they would include an IR broadcaster on the iphone for things like this and basic old-school Palm-style contact beaming since they’re so cheap.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LPGIAOJ2B4WAVU5LWXMSZYMX4M Keith

      Actually, Apple can patent it, IF L5 (or someone else) didn’t do so already. Congress changed the rules for US Patents a couple of years ago to match the rest of the world so it’s now first-to-file, not first-to-invent.

      But it sounds like the specific claim that would be patented here is TAKING A PHOTO of a remote, and then programming it. L5 does not offer that functionality, and, as far as I know, that would be unique. What Apple would be patenting is the process of converting an image of a remote control into a UI for designing a programmable remote based around it.

      So it’s probably patentable, but the problem I see is that it could be patentable by anyone. I don’t see how anything proposed here is tied to proprietary iOS functionality. Any iOS developer could build an app that takes a photo and presents it as a remote control display (like F5 does with templates) for further refinement.

      My suggestion to iOS developers out there: call your patent attorney and get your paperwork in now, before Apple does, and then if Apple builds this, you can sue /them/!

  • Anonymous

    “Apple is talking about using your iPhone (or similar device) to take a picture of an existing remote”

    Nopes, they are talking about the picture of device (to be controlled) itself, not the control. If so, take a picture of your tv/ dvr to bring the corresponding remote in ios device.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LPGIAOJ2B4WAVU5LWXMSZYMX4M Keith

      That is another interpretation of the proposal, but the same comments I made above apply. This is just image matching against a database of CE devices. Anybody can build and patent this. In fact, I’d be a little surprised if this idea wasn’t already patented in a more generic way, not specific to iOS.

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