Can't find the TV remote? Try calling it.
A recent patent filed by Apple and discovered by the site Patently Apple shows a clever design for a potential TV remote control that could totally render obsolete the thin black box you know and constantly lose: You simply take a photo of your TV's remote control using your iPhone, and then send it to iCloud for analysis. iCloud then sends back to your phone a working image of the remote control with all of the buttons and functions on your physical remote that you are now able to use as a replacement for your actual remote control. So, if you misplace your real television remote, you can just use your iPhone.
(Of course, if you lose both your remote control and your iPhone -- well, you have to get up and push the buttons on the TV. And maybe clean your house).
So, why is this exciting? There are already dozens of apps in the App Store and
Android Market Google Play Store that can double as your TV remote control. Well, aside from offering a more full-featured, better-targeted remote control for your television, it might offer a glimpse at the mysterious television that Apple has long been rumored to be working on.
Though Apple already has a set-top box that connects to your television and accesses the iTunes Store and Netflix, the company is widely believed to be working on an HD television of its own, perhaps for release before Christmas 2012; the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he had "cracked" the problem with TVs, and Apple design chief Jony Ive is said to have a working 50'' prototype in his studio.
Most of the focus on how an Apple television might revolutionize the TV -- as the iPhone revolutionized cell phones, and the iPad revolutionized tablet computing -- has looked at content: Apple is rumored to be negotiating with content providers to unbundle cable channels and let users subscribe to channels one-by-one, or show-by-show. (Those negotiations aren't going well, according to the New York Post).
As for the television itself: Details have thus far been scant. Some have predicted that the so-called "iTV" will be controlled using Siri, Apple's voice-activated assistant. This isn't too far-fetched, as Samsung and Microsoft, for example, both currently offer voice control for televisions. But this new remote patent may be perhaps the first evidence of a piece of Apple's own television. Perhaps Apple will ship a physical remote control that comes with an identical app for iPhone or iPad. Or perhaps you'll get to choose your own remote control, based on the other devices in your house (the patent also covers functionality for the virtual remote to power on and off lights, lock doors, and work music players and other third-party devices).
Maybe this patent shows a neat little utility that Apple could choose to release totally separately from a television set. Then again, the company might also choose never to release it, as tech companies often file patents and develop prototypes that never make it to market. (We're still waiting on that slimmer, larger iPhone 5, for example). At this point, it's just a patent.
Take a look at the slideshow (below) for some of the coolest patents filed by Apple. We seriously want to see some of these come to market. Which would you most like to see?
The HP TouchPad's "touch to share" feature has nothing on this futuristic Apple patent, which illustrates Apple devices emmulating natural, real-world gestures. In the illustrated example above, an iPhone is tilted over an iPad in order to share files, the way you would do if you were "pouring" the data from one device into the other. Filed: 2010 Source: Patently Apple
Back in 2006, Apple filed a patent for a laser-based binocular display unit, which could attach to glasses, helmets, or goggles. In theory, users could plug the device into their iPod and watch videos via the head-mounted apparatus instead of on the tiny iPod display. This wearable system would also let the user remain mobile while enjoying media entertainment. Filed: 2006 Source: Patently Apple
This filing makes us wonder what it would be like to have an iPhone with separate displays on its front and back. If each display operated independently, then users could control navigation (or a table of contents) on one side while reading or watching video on the other. Filed: 2010 Source: Patently Apple
Many technology companies are betting that 3D is the next big thing, and fortunately for Apple, it already has a few patents to its name. One such example is a desktop display system that projects a 3D hologram, rather than projecting a 2D image onto a flat screen. Filed: 2006 Source: Patently Apple
Using a reflector that captures light externally, future MacBook owners could enjoy using their laptops outside while harnessing the sun's natural energy to power the device. Apple's patent states that a "translucent surface may also serve to protect the rear face of the display screen from damage". Filed: 2008 Source: Patently Apple
In one iteration of the system, users wrap earphone cables around a charging tower and place a conductive metal mesh on their device in order to power-up. Filed: 2010 Source: Patently Apple
Picture this: an iPod Classic whose touch wheel can morph into a television remote keypad. Currently, input devices use a specific set of operations (such as buttons, keys, touch screens) to command a computer; but, a shape shifting configuration that can physically change interface topography could be a complete game-changer in consumer electronics. Filed: 2009 Source: Patently Apple
This patent would let Apple use liquidmetal, or "amorphous alloy" collector plates for internal component fuel cells. According to Cult of Mac, this technology "could power mobile phones for more than 30 days without recharging and notebooks for 20 hours or more." Filed: 2004 Source: Cult of Mac
3D gesturing allows users to rotate objects on the touch screen, gain different perspectives, control color and texture, and more. This technology could be a breakthrough in computer-aided design applications and games. Filed: 2010 Source: Patently Apple