Patents hint that broadcast TV and presence detection features may be coming to Apple TV

By , Dec 28, 2015

Apple TV 4 watching movies lifestyle 001

Apple is researching a pair of interesting new features to give its fourth-generation Apple TV some new smarts and make the box more TV-like. Titled “User detection by a computing device” and “Input device & user interface interactions”, these inventions outline a fresh new user interface for changing channels on an iOS device and a presence-aware remote to keep playing content as long as someone is in the room.

Broadcast TV

The user interface for changing channels includes a navigation bar with the current progress and a larger area for the video itself. The item can be standalone (a movie, for example) or a sequence of content items such as television shows and movie bundles.

Apple specifically mentions an electronic programming guide-like feature with broadcast ordering based on the time they were originally aired. Later in the patent abstract, Apple talks about changing “television broadcasts on a specific channel”.

Apple TV patent changing channels drawing 001

The system should provide the correct ordering of the television broadcasts based on the time they were originally aired. The interface runs on an iOS device, potentially hinting at new features coming to Apple’s forthcoming remote application for the Apple TV 4, but it could also be part of a tvOS software update.

As you know, Apple has yet to unveil a TV-subscription service for the Apple TV but, as evidenced by this patent, seems to have the software ready to support that feature.

The other patent which details presence detection is also curious.

Presence detection

Stating that determining whether a person is present at a device can be beneficial in providing an enhanced user experience with the device, Apple writes the “if a television were able to determine that a person is in the presence of the television, the television could forgo going to sleep so the person’s television-viewing can remain uninterrupted.”

A presence-enabled device determines whether you’re present in the room by plying an audible or inaudible sound that is outside of the normal range of hearing for a human.

Apple TV patent presence drawing 001

The Siri Remote’s built-in microphone would pick up the sound and send it back to the Apple TV via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, which would compare the generated and recorded sound to determine if the remote is nearby a telly, based on several presence criteria.

The sound-receiving device can also be an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Again, the upcoming remote app for the new Apple TV could gain this functionality.

“If the presence criteria are not satisfied with respect to the mobile phone,” Apple writes, “the user is determined to be not present at the sound-playback device.”

Other proposed presence verification methods include facial recognition, motion checks, network checks, re-performing presence checks when the large amount of motion corresponds to the user having left the room and more.

Source: USPTO 1, 2 via PatentlyApple

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  • Spending millions of dollars on a feature than can be duplicated by simply pressing the pause/unpause button. Yeah that’s where we need our efforts focused.

    • MadeInNY

      Now that we know how you wouldn’t want to change it, how would you make the TV experience better?

      • therealjjohnson

        I enjoy the current experience. It’s only been out for a few months if that. I’m. To really trying to change it.

      • By making all the programs available for just one monthly fee instead of having to pay for each channel (i.e. HBO, showtime, etc). So you pay and get on demand access to all programming previously aired and new programming will be added a certain amount of time after premiering. In other words, Netflix with an infinite library.

      • MadeInNY

        An Apple TV version of something like this would be nice. But aren’t you really just describing what you get when you subscribe to cable? If you were to get this over Apple tv it probably would cost about the same. I have a Verizon fios app on my phone that give me many (but not all the same) of the channels I get on the cable box. An Apple TV version of this app would be nice. The phone app does work with AirPlay but that’s not that convenient.

      • I’m not certain. When I had cable I had very little control over what I was watching. Couldn’t pick and choose programs, only channels. I’m suggesting get rid of the tv schedule altogether and just premiere new episodes weekly or whatever.

      • MadeInNY

        This is true. But I would not want to give up “live” events or debuts of programs. I would miss the shared experience and next day discussion you get when everyone watches at the same time.

  • -= J$@ =-

    i got my atv 4 a few weeks ago. I have Channels app (works in conjunction with HDHomerun) & Infuse…already it has changed the I watch tv. All i need now is DVR function!