On August 8, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a very interesting future application that involves the building of audible or inaudible audio hyperlinks into an app that could be played back on podcasts, TV shows or as an in-store sale carried over in-store speakers. It could be a message sent directly to your iPhone by a band at a concert notifying you that there's a special deal on music or promotional items because you attended their concert. The inaudible hyperlink is triggered at some point in an audible or inaudible message that's broadcasted. It's easy to see that there's a lot of potential for this type of future application.
Apple states that hyperlinking has typically been limited to textual documents, including web pages, and providing a way to allow hyperlinking of non-textual material would be useful. For example, many podcast programs identify other resources that might be of interest to the listener, such as other podcasts or web material, there is currently no way for a podcast to provide a hyperlink to such other resources in the audio content of the podcast.
By adding hyperlinks within an audio stream such as a podcast will provide listening users with a way to access linked resources. An audio hyperlink encoded in an audio stream indicates the presence of an audio hyperlink in the audio stream, as well as providing information for traversing the hyperlink to the linked resource. The hyperlink may be conditionally traversed upon a user interaction or automatically upon detection in the audio stream, possibly pausing the audio stream containing the hyperlink during the traversal of the hyperlink and resuming the audio stream if the audio stream is returned to from the linked material.
The linked material may be other audio content, but may also be any other type of desired content that may be accessible by the system processing the audio stream.
By encoding audio hyperlinks into audio streams, audio streams can take advantage of the ability to link between resources currently available in web browsers and other text-based systems. A system employing audio hyperlinks can allow users to jump between the audio stream and other resources.
As with hypertext systems, an audio hyperlinking system employs hyperlink information encoded into the audio stream that can be used by an electronic device to identify, access, and perform linked resources.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a pair of audio waveforms, illustrating linking from one audio stream to another.
Apple states that an electronic device may recognize the hyperlink indicator and decode the hyperlink information, then provide some or all of that information to a user through the user interface.
The user interface may display information about the hyperlink to a user's display and audibly inform the user of the hyperlink, or take any other user interface actions to alert the user to the presence of the hyperlink.
The User Interface
Apple states that in certain embodiments, user interaction elements such as hardware buttons may be used to control hyperlinking. These user interaction elements may be dedicated to hyperlink controls, or may be overlaid with additional actions to control hyperlink traversal.
In one embodiment, a button, such as a button on a headset normally used for accepting a call, may be double-clicked to indicate that a hyperlink should be traversed, and triple-clicked (or single clicked) to indicate a return to the original audio stream.
In another embodiment, activation of the call accept button may be combined with activation of the volume increase button to cause the hyperlink to be traversed, and activation of the call accept button combined with activation of the volume decrease button to cause the traversal to be halted and to resume the playback of the original audio stream.
In yet another embodiment, a user interface may provide controls for hyperlink traversal that are normally not displayed, but are displayed upon activation of another control. For example, on a smartphone, double-clicking on a Home button may cause display of the hyperlink user interface.
Under "Encoding the Hyperlink" section of Apple's patent they state that "Either or both of the hyperlink indicator and hyperlink information may be encoded in the audio stream to be audible to a listener or to be inaudible.
In some embodiments, the hyperlink indicator may be an audio tone or sequence of tones that are audible to a listener of the audio stream. In other embodiments, the hyperlink indicator may be an audio tone or sequence of tones that is inaudible to a human listener, such as a tone at a frequency that is outside of the normal hearing range of 20 Hz-20 KHz, but which may be detected and recognized by the electronic device playing the audio stream, causing an effect in a user interface.
An Example Application from a Similar Application
An application already using similar technology can be downloaded from the App Store today. On Sonic Notify's webpage we see in step three noted below that the "inaudible signal" can be played over speakers in stores, on TV, and at live events.
The apps that use an integrated inaudible signal and played over speakers on TV, concerts or in stores are able to trigger iPhone actions, be it delivering an ad, information about an in-store/Apple Store special or information relating to a movie or TV show. It may even one day trigger your iPhone to interact with a TV show like "The Voice," for voting for an artist or purchasing a Tune of the artist on iTunes. This could be a great feature for a future Apple HDTV.
Apple's patent application doesn't cover any valued example but does cover details about the technical of the invention. Apple's patent application covers distinct subject matter covering Audio Streams, Audio Hyperlinks, Encoding the Hyperlink, Creation of an Audio Stream including a Hyperlink, Playback of an Audio Stream Including a Hyperlink, the User Interface and Implementation in an Electronic Device.
To review specific details of this invention, see Apple's patent application 20130204413 which was originally filed for in Q1 2012.
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