Moving beyond today's remotes (image:

Moving beyond today’s remotes (image:

An iPhone may fall under the generic heading of a mobile phone, but a combination of the convenience of apps and the ability to use the iPhone as a remote for everything from playing a movie to changing the color of our lighting means that many of us use them at home almost as much as we do when out & about.

In a patent published today, Apple explores the potential of the iPhone to act as an intelligent remote with the kind of functionality typically associated with high-end home automation setups. The idea is based around the concept of ‘scenes’. Having a romantic night in with your partner? You probably want the lights dimmed, the music on softly, the TV off. Movie night? The big-screen on, Apple TV selected as the source, surround-sound speakers selected, volume up higher – and so on … 


The idea is that you get things setup the way you want them once, give it a friendly name and can then a single tap of the iPhone screen chooses your active devices, sets sources, changes the lighting, sets the volume, starts playlists … whatever combination of devices and settings is needed to deliver the desired result.


Smart remotes have existed for many years, and there’s of course nothing new about using an iPhone as a remote, but it’s another sign that Apple has big plans for the living-room. The rumored HDTV, whatever form it takes, is certainly going to have a slick usability experience and a high degree of integration with other Apple devices as key priorities.

In an unrelated patent, Apple is also exploring a kind of silent disco plus. Silent discos, if you haven’t seen them, are where a nightclub issues visitors with infra-red or wifi headphones and broadcasts the music to them. The visitors are all dancing away to the same track, but no-one else hears the music.

Apple’s patent for a Coordinated group musical experience should surely win some kind of award for the funniest illustration ever seen in a patent application.


Apple’s concept is that a silent disco could be created by a group of iDevices (any mix of iPod, iPhone and iPad) all communicating with each other. One person acts as the DJ, to select the starting track, and the music can be played to everyone running the app.

The patent goes further: it allows for the use of any form of communication (including 4G) so the participants don’t all have to be in the same place at the same time. And they don’t even need to be listening to the same exact track: a similar functionality to Genius is proposed, where criteria like genre and beats-per-minute can give each person a similar but not identical listening experience.

As always with Apple patents, only a tiny minority of them ever see the light of day in real products and services. I’m not totally convinced about the silent disco, but I’d rate the chances of the smart remote rather higher than most of the patents we see floating around.

Via AI

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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