When it comes to the topic of Apple + TV, let's be frank. The world is waiting for an Apple HDTV to deliver the next great thing. But like with the iPhone, patents dated back to 1999 or eight years prior to seeing a real world product. It's just a fact of life that Great Products take time to work through the system. Today, Apple has revealed how a future Apple TV set-top-box will be able to access additional information about a TV show, event or movie that you're about to watch. It will be able to provide Apple TV users with contextual information on actors in a movie that you're about to watch or a summary of a keynote, for example. Interestingly, the additional context-base information will be sent to the user's iPad or iPhone that will work in sync with Apple TV and the content being presented on your television via your local cable or satellite provider. While today's invention is definitely not as ambitious as some TV oriented projects have been in the past, and there have been many of them over the years, it's probably a more realistic and humble starting point that seems to be only a stone's throw away.
Advancing Apple TV: Accessing Contextual Information
In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, an approach is provided for enabling a user to easily and conveniently obtain additional information pertaining to a set of media content that is currently being presented to the user.
According to this approach, a media access device (hereafter referred to as Apple TV) accesses a set of media content as well as some context information pertaining to the media content. For purposes of the present invention, the media content may be any type of content that can be presented to a user, including but not limited to video-only content (e.g. pictures, slideshows, graphics, text, etc.), audio-only content (e.g. music, speech, etc.), audio/visual content, generally referred to as video content (e.g. movies, shows, live events, etc.), etc.
The context information may be any information relating to the media content. For example, the context information may include some basic information about the media content (e.g. title, author/creator, director, actors(s), synopsis, etc.) as well as some other information (e.g. an address to a site at which additional information about the media content can be obtained). The context information may pertain to the set of media content as a whole or just to a particular portion or aspect of the media content.
Upon accessing the media content, Apple TV will provide the media content to a presentation device for presentation to a user. The presentation device may, for example, be a television, a stereo system, etc. While the media content is being presented to the user, Apple TV will generate a context message based upon the context information. Apple TV will then send the context message to a receiving device being used by the user that is capable of consuming the context message. Examples of a "receiving device" include but are not limited to a tablet, a smartphone, a laptop or desktop computer, a notebook, etc.
Using the information in the context message, the receiving device provides the user with additional information relevant to the media content being presented. This additional information is provided to the user while the user is experiencing the media content on the presentation device. Thus, the additional information helps to enhance the user's enjoyment of the media content. By sending the context message to the receiving device, Apple TV will be in effect bridging the user's experience of the media content on the presentation device with the user's use of the receiving device to provide an overall integrated experience. By providing this bridge, Apple TV will make it much easier and more convenient for the user to access additional information relevant to the media content.
A Simple Scenario
To illustrate how this approach may be used advantageously, reference will be made to the above example in which the user wishes to obtain additional information pertaining to a topic that is being discussed in a set of media content. According to the approach, Apple TV may access (along with the media content) some context information pertaining to the topic discussed in the media content. The context information may include, for example, a summary of the topic, as well as an address to a site at which detailed information on the topic can be obtained.
This next generation of Apple TV, according to the patent filing, will stream the media content to a presentation device for presentation to a user. Apple TV will also be able to generate a context message that contains the summary information and the address of the site.
When the presentation of the media content reaches a point at which the topic is about to be discussed, Apple TV will send the context message to a receiving device. In turn, the receiving device uses the information in the context message to provide additional information on the topic to the user. Specifically, the receiving device may display the summary information to the user. In addition, the receiving device may display a link to the site that contains more detailed information on the topic. Should the user invoke the link, the receiving device navigates to the site and obtains additional information on the topic for the user. This is done while the topic is being discussed in the media content. Thus, there is a nexus between the media content that is being presented on the presentation device and the additional information that is provided to the user by the receiving device.
With this approach, the user is no longer required to perform a search on the topic, review search results, select one of various possible links, etc. Rather, the user simply has to review the additional information on the topic that is provided by the receiving device, and if the user is interested in obtaining more detailed information on the topic, the user can simply invoke the link provided by the receiving device. With this integration between the media content and the receiving device, additional information relevant to the media content can be easily and conveniently accessed, which can lead to enhanced enjoyment of the media content.
Multiple iDevices will be able to Access Contextual Information Differently
This approach can be particularly advantageous in a setting in which a set of media content is presented to multiple users, where each user has their own receiving device. In such a setting, Apple TV would send the context message to each of the receiving devices. The user of each receiving device would then decide what to do with the additional information provided by their corresponding receiving device.
Some users may choose to ignore the additional information, while others may review the information and even invoke a link to obtain more information. The main point is that by ignoring or fully exploiting the additional information provided by their receiving device, each user is in effect creating their own personalized experience of the media content. All the while, the media content on the presentation device is not changed. Thus, with this approach, each user is able have as full an experience of the media content as they want (with or without the additional information) without adversely affecting the experience of the media content by the other users.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 noted above is a block diagram of a system 100. One type of content provider is noted as being a remote content provider 112b. This type of content provider will be accessed by Apple TV through the network 106 and the Internet 110. Examples of this type of content provider 112b include but are not limited to remote media streaming servers and cloud servers. Another type of content provider is an external content provider 112c that provides media content via a medium such as cable, satellite, or air. Examples of these content providers include cable service providers, satellite service providers, and local broadcasters.
Apple's patent application was originally filed under serial number 070697 in Q1 2011 by sole inventor Matthew Hanlon and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Here are a few of the more interesting Apple TV patents on record regarding menus and conceptual interactivity features (one, two, three and four).
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