Today, The US Patent and Trademark Office published a unique granted patent of Apple's which has yet to surface that could prove to be a very powerful tool for consumers and professionals on the go. The concept involves using an iPhone to control a home computer remotely while on the road, at the office or elsewhere. According to the patent, an iPhone user will be able to remotely control the movements of a cursor on an iMac or MacBook to select a software application (e.g., email) from a menu or desktop icon, launch applications, control a printer or any other peripheral. Apple's patent describes how the iPhone could have a keypad that is mapped to specific functions - as noted in the graphic above. The patent even points to an expanding application use for Voice Controls, which are limited today. This granted patent is definitely the star of today's patent line-up and worthy of being a separate report to emphasize its importance.
Remote Control of Electronic Devices
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a flow diagram of an exemplary process 100 for remote control of electronic devices. The steps of process 100 do not have to occur in any specific order, and at least some steps can be performed simultaneously in a multithreading and/or multiprocessing environment. For the purposes of this example, the device will be described in the context of a personal computer (PC) ("the controlled device") that is controlled by a touchtone phone having a numeric keypad – such as Apple's iPhone - (as the "controlling device").
The term "controlling" includes controlling tasks associated with the controlled device. Tasks can include but are not limited to navigating user interfaces and file systems (including navigating user interfaces associated with applications and the operating system), invoking or launching applications or programs, functions and/or features associated with the controlled device or its peripherals, scrolling through lists, menus or browsers, text entry, collecting information (e.g., meta data, system configuration data), and any other activity that can be locally performed at the controlled device. For example, a user could remotely control the movements of a cursor in a desktop user interface to select a software application (e.g., email) from a menu, desktop icon, or other selection mechanism, launch the selected application, then navigate or interact with a user interface associated with the launched application to perform various tasks.
The process 100 begins when a communication channel is established between the controlling device and the controlled device (102). A communication channel can be established by the controlling device calling a telephone number associated with the controlled device. The telephone call can be placed using one or more communication networks, including but not limited to: the Public Switched Telecommunications Network (PSTN), the Internet (e.g., VoIP), wireless networks, etc. The controlled device can include a telephony interface (e.g., dial-up modem, cable modem, digital subscriber line (DSL), network interface card (NIC), etc.) for receiving the call and for establishing communication with the controlling device.
After communication is established, the user can use the keypad or other input mechanism of the controlling device to enter input, which is received by the controlled device (104). The input can be of the form of key stroke(s) or voice input from the user, which is converted by the controlling device into signals or packets, which can be carried or transmitted over a communication network using one or more known communication protocols (e.g., PCM, TCP/IP, GSM, etc.). In some implementations, the controlling device is a touchtone phone and sends DTMF tones to the controlled device. The controlled device can detect and interpret the tones using a suitable protocol for such purpose, such as the publicly available Telephony Application Program Interface (TAPI).
In some implementations, the controlled device maps the detected signals into control commands or instructions that can be used to control and interact with the controlled device (106). For example, the user can press a key or key combination on the keypad to control one or more tasks, as described with respect to FIG. 2. The maps can be generated and stored at the controlled device or downloaded from a network device or other source. A "map" translates input signals received from the controlling device (e.g., DTMF tones) and maps the signals into commands or instructions that can be executed by a remote control application. The remote control application can be part of an operation system or an application. For example, a client application can be configured to receive telephony information from a telephony server running on the controlled device, as described with respect to FIG. 3. An example of an application that can be remotely controlled is described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/956,720, filed Oct. 1, 2004, entitled "Spoken Interfaces."
Example Keypad Operation
Apple's patent FIG. 2 shown below illustrates an exemplary keypad of a controlling device (e.g., a telephony device/Apple's iPhone). In some implementations, the keypad includes keys for numbers 0 through 9, an asterisk key and a pound key. One or more of the keys could be mapped to remote control functions associated with tasks to be performed at the controlled device. In this example, the remote control functions associated with the keys 215 are shown in parentheses. In a normal mode of operation, the keys could be used to perform typical functions associated with the controlling device (e.g., place a telephone call).
In a remote control mode, the keys perform remote control functions, as determined by the mapping then in effect on the controlled or controlling device. For example, when the user wants to use the controlling device (210) – the iPhone - to remotely control another device, the user could select a key combination (or dedicated function key, if available) to place the controlling device – or iPhone - into the remote control mode. There could be a different key combination for each mapping available in the controlled or controlling device. A user could invoke the appropriate map for the application or function that the user desires to control (e.g., browser, email, operating system utilities, etc.) For example, when remotely controlling an email application the user may want to map one of the keys 115 to a "send" command and another to a "reply" command, which are commands often associated with email applications.
In the implementation shown in FIG. 2 below, the mapping provides for the navigation of a user interface associated with the controlled device. For this particular mapping, the keys 2,4,6,8 are directional keys for controlling navigation in an upward, leftward, rightward, or downward direction, respectively, in a two-dimensional user interface. By contrast, the keys 0,1,3,5,7,9,*,# are functional keys.
Other mappings of the keypad 212 are possible. For example, the keypad could include one or more dedicated function keys for remotely controlling particular tasks at the controlled device. For example, the keypad could include dedicated keys for controlling email functions, such as send, reply, delete, etc.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 shown above, is a block diagram of an exemplary software architecture 300 for a controlled device.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 shown below, is a block diagram of an exemplary hardware architecture 400 for a controlled device.
Apple credits John O. Louch, Eric Seymour and Michael Shebanek as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,634,263.
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