New Wireless iPod & Remote Control Revealed

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Both Bang & Olufsen and Apple are set to launch radical new remote controls for the home. Apple’s secret remote control plans have been revealed in patents lodged with the US patents office.

The Beo5 is set to be launched in August. The Apple remotem which came to light when the US patents Office revealed a submission from Apple for a remote patent, will utilise a new wireless iPod which will have the ability to control media playing throughout your home on various devices such as your home stereo or TV. Apple’s iPod will take on new abilities and GUI options which are intended to challenge the Sonos Digital Music System.

Apple’s patent describes the creation of a multi-room digital music system which will allow for the streaming of both music an video from an iPod source.

The Beo5 from Bang & Olufsen will work with both B&O and non B&O products however it is designed to work primarily with all of the B&O range but in particularly with the TV range when partnered with the BeoMedia devices.

A backlit screen, which is able to be configured via a USB connection on the docking/charging station, sits on top of a very tactile metal control sphere. The interface is a modification of the well known Beo4 layout but with the addition of a click wheel and ring of control buttons. A numeric keyboard can be activated on the touch sensitive screen by pressing TEXT. Different set ups of screen can be customised by the user though this has to be set up by a dealer.

In its patent submission Apple claims that the quality of multimedia playback by computers has improved dramatically in the last several years however these systems still lag behind typical entertainment devices (e.g., stereos, televisions, projection systems, etc.) in terms of performance, fidelity, and usability for the typical consumer.

Therefore, in order to utilise the higher quality playback systems, it has become common to install home network systems whereby an individual’s personal computer is linked (either wirelessly or wired) to a home entertainment system forming in the process; a media system. The media system integrates several interfaces and feature sets into an integrated platform. In this way, the individual is able to listen, view or otherwise access this multimedia data stored on a personal computer using these various entertainment devices. For example, a wireless network interface (e.g., 802.11g based Airport Express wireless network interface communicates wirelessly with other devices and to serve as a wireless base station or as a repeater (to increase the range of a pre-existing wireless network).

 

The network interface available on the personal computer can be used to link to any entertainment device, such as a stereo system, television, or home theatre system. This would allow, for example, streaming of multimedia data from a personal computer connected to the network interface (wired or wireless) to an entertainment device connected to the multimedia interface. Unfortunately, however, in order to control certain aspects of the playback of the multimedia data (such as changing a song, an entire playlist, or even controlling volume) a listener wishing to make such changes must be in physical contact with the personal computer in which the multimedia data being played is stored. For example, if a listener is in a living room listening to music being streamed to a living room based stereo by a computer wirelessly linked thereto located in an upstairs den, changing the song being played would require the listener to physically walk to the upstairs den where the computer was located and select the desired song.

One approach used to solve the problem of remote access and control is provided by a zone based system exemplified by Sonos Digital Music System  that utilizes distributed units (Sonos.TM. Zone Players) and a controller unit (Sonos.TM.Controller). Unfortunately, these units require substantial investment in equipment in order to provide the requisite zone based remote access and control. For example, Sonos Digital Music System requires a user to purchase, or otherwise acquire, a controller as well as one or more zone players depending upon the area.

Therefore, what is desired is a system that leverages existing devices (such as an iPod, AirPort Express, a Mac running iTunes) to provide the remote access and control that would otherwise require the purchase of specialized equipment such as zone controller units and zone players.Wireless Media Network & Media Remote

Apple’s patent FIG. 1 shows a representative wireless media network and a wireless battery powered portable multimedia player in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.


Click to enlarge

In yet another embodiment, a portable digital media player (such as an iPod), is bound to a personal computer in such a way that the digital media player wirelessly controls the computer.

In another implementation, the portable multimedia player can display a user interface that enables the user to control how a media item is to be played. For example, the control provided can alter, change or provide play characteristic, such as volume, equalization, etc., or navigation, such as next, previous, play, stop, etc. In such cases, a control signal alone can be sent since the associated media item is already known by the media server.

 

 

Apple’s Summary

A portable multimedia player (such as the iPod.TM. manufactured by Apple Computer, Inc. of Cupertino, Calif.) is used to wirelessly access and control a media server (such as a personal computer running iTunes software) that is streaming digital media by way of a wireless interface to a media unit (such as a stereo/speakers in the case of streaming digital audio). In one embodiment, a method of using a portable multimedia player arranged to store digital media files to wirelessly access and/or control a media server configured to stream digital media data to a media unit is described. The method is performed by binding the portable multimedia player and the media server, wirelessly transmitting a signal from the multimedia player to the media server, and streaming the digital media data from the media server to a media unit by way of a wireless interface using the received signal.

 

In another embodiment, a portable digital multimedia player remote controller unit arranged to store multimedia media file metadata used to wirelessly control a remote media server is described. The remote controller unit includes a wireless network interface, a display device arranged to display a user interface having a number of user selectable items, and a processor unit that in response to a user selection of one of the user selectable items generates a signal that is wirelessly sent by the wireless network interface to the remote media server, the signal including multimedia file meta data identifying a multimedia file stored on the media server that, in turn, responds to the signals by accessing the identified multimedia file and once accessed, wirelessly sends the identified multimedia file to a remote media unit.

And in another, a method of providing wireless remote control of a remote media unit through use of a portable multimedia player and a personal computer is described. The method is carried out by wirelessly receiving at the personal computer a multimedia file indication from the multimedia player, identifying a multimedia file stored on the personal computer using the received multimedia file indication, accessing the identified multimedia file; and wirelessly sending the identified multimedia file from the personal computer to the remote media unit.

Architecting Your In-Home Media Networks

In alternative embodiments, additional services may be designed to specify a variety of parameters relating to one or more multimedia input or output devices attached to the media unit. Devices that might have particular applicability in a home network environment include speakers, video display terminals, cameras, microphones, etc.

The automatic discovery aspects of devices within the network permit its use in architecting easily configured home networks according to a user’s preferences and designs. For example, a user with a large library of music on a computer in one room of a house can create a wireless multimedia network for his entire home simply by deploying a few of the disclosed wireless network interfaces throughout his home. For example, he can put one near the stereo in the living room, and one by the television in the bedroom. By connecting the appropriate multimedia interface, he can serve audio, video, or other content to these devices with a simple selection at his personal computer. For example, he may direct the living room stereo to play his favourite album, and he may direct the bedroom television to show a home movie. This extensible architecture allows a user to configure relationships between sources and destinations of media data without regard or need for buying all components from the same vendor, or other such considerations that might otherwise be required to permit interoperability of disparate devices on a wireless network.

 

Once the wireless network interface is discovered on the wireless network, the media software running on personal computer, e.g., iTunes, will recognize the associated stereo system as a destination for audio data, and will automatically provide the particular device (e.g., stereo system) as a selectable destination within the user interface. When the user selects a particular device from those available, a variety of authentication and security exchanges can take place. For example, if password protection is provided as a security feature, the user may be prompted for a password required to use the media unit (i.e., stereo system) for audio file playback. Additionally, if the user attempts to select a device that is already in use (for example, by another user), the media unit (i.e., wireless network interface) will send a message indicating that it is busy through the user interface.

Once a connection is established between a media source, e.g., a personal computer, and the wireless network interface media data corresponding to one or more media items (e.g., songs) can be transmitted from the personal computer to the wireless network interface. The transmission can pertain to a file transfer of the media data (media file) or streaming of the media data. The connection remains open so long as media data is being transmitted. Once media data is no longer being transmitted, for example, at the end of playback of a song or album, the connection enters an “idle” state. While in this idle state, the media source can begin successfully transmitting data at any time, as the connection has not been closed. Thus, it would not be necessary to renegotiate or otherwise re-establish the connection.

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