Let’s say you’re listening to the radio, and it begins playing a song you don’t like. Under a new patent granted to Apple today, your radio could seamlessly switch to a song from your iTunes library for the duration, then switch back to the broadcast when it’s done. And according to the patent reported by Apple Insider, the same technology could apply to a linear TV broadcast, commercials included.
Now, before we get ahead ourselves, let’s remember that technology companies patent lots of things — even ideas they never use. But Apple is widely rumored to be working on a new TV experience, and this is a intriguing idea that’s technically possible: apps like Shazam already identify music and TV shows in as quickly as one second, and Apple already has the beginnings of a Pandora-like service with “Genius.”
The patent describes that the technology would create a “preference profile” for users based on what they “like” or “dislike” and/or their previous consumption behavior (and conceivably, what their friends think of it, too). So hypothetically here, if you keep skipping commercials on an Apple DVR, it could learn that you’re not a fan of those spots, automatically playing other content during subsequent breaks during live viewing.
Automatic commercial-skipping triggers lawsuits faster than just about anything these days, but what’s fascinating here is Apple’s approach. From the patent: “Because the user has no control over the media broadcast, the user can typically only tune to a different media broadcast, or listen to or consume the broadcast content that is not of interest.” It’s not skipping commercials per se, but switching to something else in the meantime — a more intelligent channel surfing. And Apple only mentions commercials as a subset of broadcast content that a user may not find interesting.
In the end, this could just be an intriguing thought experiment, not a product. We’ll just have to wait and see. More from Apple Insider here.