Apple researching audio hyperlinks technology to control devices from podcasts

podcasts 1.2

Remember the hokey demonstrations of hypnotism, where people are given commands to honk like a duck when a bell rings? Substitute podcasts for the hypnotists and a hyperlink for a duck quack and you’ve got Apple’s latest patent application.

The application, published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, outlines a way to encode device commands in audio signals. While Apple uses the example of enhanced podcasts which embed commands to visit a webpage or view an image stored on your device, the technology is also seen as a way to include ads in the upcoming iTunes Radio service…

Although currently-available enhanced podcasts can add images, hyperlinks and more within special their metadata, Apple’s goal is to place commands directly in the audio stream.

In the 2012 application entitled “Audio Hyperlinking,” the iTunes maker describes a couple ways of embedding commands within audio – one innocuous and the other rather Orwellian.

In one method, embedded instructions (audible or inaudible to humans) within an audio stream can suspend the podcast and tell your iDevice to visit a certain page, view a certain image or carry out any other command.

One example of such audio-based commands was a recent concert tour by Lady Gaga. One song performed at the concert included embedded instructions audible only to the sea of smartphones in the audience.

Using a specialized service, these high-pitch tones were converted to “a type of hyperlinks that led smartphones to webpages and images,” writes AppleInsider.


Another method would involve a “decaying pulse amplitude” that emits an audio hyperlink limited by time. Also, the user-interaction would be required.

One obvious use for embedding audio commands would be for advertising. It is easily imagined that Joe’s Corner Apps could buy an audio ad, embed the command to pull up his latest game in the App Store and simply have listeners push the free download button.

Auto manufacturers could instruct smartphones in the audience to visit their website.

Even more obvious is if taken to its logical conclusion, hypnotizing your iPhone would make hiring 10-year-old Chinese kids to build smartphones for middle class Westerners seem like a walk in the park.

Naturally, there is no certainty that Apple would use such audio hyperlinking, but the patent application does create prior art for when someone does.