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Apple Wants You to Get Down & P-a-r-t-y with Social iTunes

1 - Cover - PARTY with iTunes SocialApple just finished introducing their new Social Network for Music called Ping on the first of September and we're already seeing in one of Apple's latest patent applications that they're thinking about the next great thing which we'll call Social iTunes for the time being. Apple's thinking of a new kind of music service that could work at your own house party or perhaps at your local community hall, bar, restaurant or pub (Cheers!). The system is unique in that it lets your party guests vote on what music that they want to hear and the system tabulates the votes to generate a playlist. You could vote with your iPod touch, iPad, iPhone or any other Apple computer. It sure sounds like Apple wants you to join Ping and then get down and P-A-R-T-Y the night away!




Increasingly media is bought, dispersed, enjoyed and manipulated in digital formats and following this shift, playlists for enjoying the media are also increasingly popular. The use of digital media, especially compressed digital media, has made it possible for users and machines to create playlists easily.


People often use their media playing devices to automatically add music to a queue. In some cases this automatic selection is random, and in other instances algorithms produce more sophisticated playlists that are better suited to a user's tastes. Some of the sophisticated playlist algorithms, could for example, take into account the similarity of songs based on their musical characteristics, or based on the feedback of the population at large, or based of the tastes in music of just one user. In some cases, these playlists could generate a great playlist, but in other situations the playlist might be lacking.


Good playlists are especially tough to create when the playlist is made for a group of people at a social gathering. The playlist algorithms have no method of understanding the mood of the listener(s) or the tastes of the population. A subset of the population frequently doesn't have the same tastes in music or movies as the population at large so even playlists that rely on this data would benefit from knowing the tastes of the specific people "enjoying" the playlist. Accordingly, there is a need to be able incorporate the influence of those listening population into the playlist to truly optimize the playlist.


Examples of potential situations where a need exists for a population to exert influence on a playlist include at bars, pubs, restaurants, parties, or social gatherings in general. In each situation, media, such as music, could really enhance the atmosphere of any social event. Whether a jukebox fails to play any songs that a group of patrons enjoy, or a friend at a party cannot put a decent playlist together, these are just a few of the examples when the influence of the local population that is actually listening to the music could make a big improvement. Accordingly, Apple's patent addresses the deficiencies in the art as set forth above.


Patent Summary


Apple's patent describes methods and arrangements for facilitating community ranking of items in a playlist as well as host devices and tangible computer-readable media for directing the operations of a host device for performing the same functions. A playlist host device transmits information to a plurality of user devices such as metadata related to media items in a playlist. The metadata includes the order of the playlist, community ranking information, song title, and artist name among other items. The user devices send, and the host device receives, votes related to a media item. The votes could be positive or negative and based on these votes the host device could reorganize the playlist to take into account the preferences of the community, such as a collection of people at a party, restaurant, bar or any other gathering of people.


In some embodiments, portions of the playlist include a vote-independent region and a vote-dependent region wherein the host device reorganizes the vote-dependent region based on received votes.


Songs are added to the playlist in conventional fashion such as by selecting media items from a media library using a graphical user interface on the host device. Permission could be given to allow authorized users or guests to queue songs remotely from their user devices. Requested songs could be treated as positive votes. Songs could also be automatically added to the playlist by a program on the host device for that purpose. Songs added by a program could be treated differently than those that are requested by users, for example, by adding program requested songs to the bottom of the playlist and adding user requested songs to the playlist in a higher position. In some embodiments the playlist has at least one set portion, which is not susceptible to adjusting the positions of the media items in this portion and at least one adjustable portion, which is susceptible to adjusting the positions of the media items in this portion.


Also described is a processor-implemented method for facilitating community interaction with a playlist on a host device, wherein the host device sends a playlist on a host device to a plurality of portable devices for display on a graphical user interface, and the host device receives from at least one portable device a positive or a negative vote for a media item in the playlist. Based on the received votes, the media item's position in the playlist is adjusted such as by promoting songs with positive votes and demoting songs with negative votes. Songs with enough negative votes can be removed from the playlist.


In some embodiments, the portable devices connect to and communicate with the electronic device over a local area network, which could be utilized by guests at a social gathering, but communications are not limited to this medium. Examples of potential electronic devices include, but are not limited to jukeboxes, home radios, karaoke machines, and personal computers.


The Jukebox


Apple's system and method patent is particularly useful for group collaboration in making and managing playlists and is generally illustrated in patent FIG. 2 below. A playlist is hosted by host device 202 which hosts a playlist and could be any device suitable for use in the system. As depicted here, the device could be a jukebox or a personal computer, but the illustration should not be considered as limiting the possible host devices. A community of users could interact with the host device via their portable devices (206, 208, 210, and 212) via any suitable electronic communications medium well known by those in the art (Bluetooth, Bonjour, and Cellular). The portable devices could be an iPhone (mobile phone 206), iPod touch (portable media playing device 208), iPod or iPad (210) a MacBook (212) or any other device capable of electronic communication with the host device.


Through use of their portable devices, users interact with the playlist to request new songs, submit votes of for or against a song, move songs up or down the playlist, skip songs, repeat songs, or otherwise remotely interact with the playlist in any way that they would while interacting directly with the host device as noted in our "various screenshots" below. Additionally, many users interact with the playlist at once. For example, users of devices 206, 208, 210, and 212 all interact with the playlist to generate a community driven playlist. Votes that are cast are tallied and affect the order of the playlist or the songs that will be played. In such a way, the described system allows community input into the playlist. Lastly, it would appear that one of the keys to this system could in fact be Apple's Airport Extreme (patent point 204).


2 - overview of Jukebox style social playlists based on voting 

Various Patent Figure Screenshots


3 - various screenshots - itunes social 


4 - patent screenshots - iTunes social 


One Method: iTunes DJ


One way to create this party system is to use Apple's iTunes DJ. The patent states that "one example of a dynamically generated playlist is the Party Shuffle playlist or the iTunes DJ playlist in the media management software iTunes which provides a continuous mix of music. Songs could be added to iTunes DJ automatically by iTunes or manually by the user. The user could then reorder songs."


The Dance Floor Vote


In the introduction we pointed to the "voting" process – but here's an interesting vote taking twist. The patents states that other mechanisms could be applied to affect somebody's vote. For example, a motion detection device within a mobile device may identify that the user is not only voting but perhaps using the mobile device while dancing, walking or in some other fashion that could be connected with the currently played music. In this respect, users could have their vote enhanced based on their participation with the songs that are being played. In other words, those that may have their devices while dancing could have their votes increased in effect which those sitting on the sidelines and not dancing, as would be indicated by the lack of motion associated with their mobile device, may have their votes adjusted accordingly. Oh no, that means that the babes will rule the music on that basis (ha!).


Apple credits Alan Cannistraro, William Bachman, Jeffrey Robbin,, Amandeep Jawa, Rainer Brodersen and Gregory Lindley as the inventors of patent application 20100228740, originally filed in Q1 2009.


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