• Apple's Plan to "Push" Its GUI to Remotes

    A patent filed by Apple in 2008 was made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. Called “Pushing a User Interface to a Remote Device,” the patent describes a method to send the GUI of a device, like an iPod, to a remote with a screen display. Although of limited usefulness with today's technology, this patent may point the way to how multiple devices can be controlled through future "smart remotes" with touchscreens.

    A report in MacRumors details the patent, which lists as lead inventor the former William Bull, User Interface Manager for Apple’s iPod unit, and also credits the “father of the iPod,” Tony Fadell. The basic idea behind the technology is that people may increasingly use one remote to control many devices... or many remotes to control the same device - and that there's no consistency in the interface beyond a very minimal set of functions (play, pause, etc). As the patent explains:

    …existing remote GUIs are defined and controlled by the remote control device, and consequently, they may bear little resemblance to a GUI supplied by the portable media device itself Certain functions available on the portable media device (such as browsing or searching a database, adjusting playback settings, etc.) may be unavailable or difficult to find.
    The patent describes a system that would send an image from the device to the remote's screen with different user interface elements. The remote would transmit only the moves a user makes - for example, that a particular button was pressed or that a particular portion of a touch-sensitive display screen was touched - and let the device decide what that means and how to implement it: including sending a new graphic back to the remote with a different screen.

    Like other recently revealed Apple patent applications, this describes a concept for future technology, rather than a product or service that may be available any time soon. It does, however, give an intriguing preview of the direction Apple sees itself moving in with its products. While a "GUI-pushing" service running on an iPod or iPhone may be somewhat cool -if uninteresting - as people increasingly use their devices to replace a CD player in their home stereos, it's possible to imagine something like a future Apple TV that would also be integrated with this system, which would make a true touchscreen "smart remote" much more useful and worthwhile.

    In any case, Apple is once again staking out a claim on future technology that's less specifically computer-oriented and more focused on home entertainment. While many companies have tried - and failed to a greater or lesser degree - to create the elusive "convergence" of computer, Internet, and audio-video entertainment technologies, perhaps Apple's strongest card to play is what is advanced in this application: its user-interface innovation.

    image via MacRumors
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