written by Matthew G. Miller, Patent Attorney at Gearhart Law
Apple Wants You Snack Freely While Watching Netflix
A few short weeks ago Apple, Inc. was granted a patent on a piece of technology that, if implemented, will change the living room forever. Ever since January of 2007, when Apple released the first generation of the Apple TV, the Cupertino company has been attempting to integrate themselves into the living room. With the issuance of United States Patent No.: 8,918,822 (“the ‘822 patent”), Apple has continued this trend.
The ‘822 patent aptly describes a problem that we have all experienced: “…a group of people may sit in a room with the fixed display system and begin watching a movie or other content. Then, during the viewing when someone decides to leave the room (e.g. to prepare a snack), the other viewers must either pause the viewing while they all wait for the departed viewer to return, or let the presentation continue and the returning viewer may miss some of the presentation.
This system works by first viewing content on a screen via a fixed display system via any device that is capable of receiving and transmitting streaming content to a separate device. Such devices include a set-top box, a network-enabled DVD player, an Apple TV, a Google TV, a Roku Streaming Player, a digital video recorder (DVR), and video game consoles (such as an Xbox 360).
When a user wishes to view the streaming content on their portable electronic device (mobile phone/tablet), they have a number of options. First, if the content is coming from a specific provider that has a proprietary application on the portable electronic device (e.g. Netflix, Hulu), the system can interface directly with that application. Alternatively, the system may allow a user to choose from a number of active data streams. If the previous two methods are not available, the system also provides for the ability to mirror the content on the portable mobile device.
As is clear, Apple is making strides to provide its customers with a seamless viewing experience. Interestingly, this is directly in line with the late Steve Jobs’ proclamation that he would like Apple to “create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use ... It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud ... It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
Whether the contents of the ‘822 patent will ever make it to market remains to be seen, however, this type of innovation is indicative of future advances being brought to a living room near you.