Patent report: multi-screen video user interface for the Apple TV, tapping to move on-screen objects

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product, so here are today’s patent highlights:

A future remote control app for the Apple TV may provide a “multi-screen video user interface” as evidenced by a patent (number 9,357,250) granted Apple today. It involves a handheld device — an iPhone or iPad, most likely — used to search for content to be displayed on a television. 

The device presents data according to a first user interface, and while searching for content, any changes to the navigation state of the handheld device are sent to the TV. The television receives an update and reformats the data according to a second user interface optimized for displaying the data on the television. 

The first user interface is native to the handheld device and the second user interface is native to the television. The user of the handheld device can utilize a familiar format while searching for content while viewers of the television are able to see the same navigation state as the handheld device but in a familiar format on the television.

A standard entertainment setup in a home includes a television, and often several people may be watching the same show or movie. When viewers are deciding which show to watch, typically a single person will navigate through the television interface searching for content while the other viewers watch the television screen and provide passive assistance to the person navigating. 

The television typically includes a remote control device, and the remote control device can be used to control the television and interact with the television interface(s) to browse for content and select content for viewing. However, the remote control device can be an “awkward and inefficient” device to use when searching for content to watch on the TV, Apple says in the patent filing. 

As increasing numbers of people are using smartphones, tablets, and other devices, the familiarity with these devices has increased as people use them for searching the Internet and performing a variety of functions that were traditionally performed by a desktop computer. Also, in some cases, devices with a touch screen interface can provide a more efficient and intuitive experience for interacting with display device user interfaces, according to Apple. The company says that, accordingly, new techniques are needed for managing interactions between multiple devices, such as a tablet computer and a television to enhance the user's experience. 

Apple has also been granted a patent (number 9,354,786) for “moving a virtual object based on tapping.” It would allow displayed virtual objects by responding to a user's tapping actions on the sides of an iPhone or iPad. The device can move the object by a small increment in a direction opposite the tapped surface, as though the tapping were gently nudging the object away from that surface. 

For example, if you tapped on the right side of the device, then the device can responsively move a currently selected object leftward by one pixel. Conversely, if you tapped on the left side of the device, then the device can responsively move the currently selected object rightward by one pixel. Similar movements of similar magnitude and in expected directions can be achieved by tapping the top or bottom of the device. A currently selected object could be moved in a more refined and precise manner than might be possible using a touchscreen alone, according to Apple.