Apple Awarded 'Second Screen' Patent

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Today Apple was awarded U.S. patent 8,763,060:

A system and method for providing companion content on a device that downloads content associated with a media presentation playing on a media player and displays the downloaded content at times synchronized to time-offsets (from the start of the program) of the presentation by signals from the media player.

This is popularly known as 'Second Screen' media - information you receive on a small personal  device that acts in sync with media playing on a larger, sometimes shared screen.

The Apple method is that a media player (such as an Apple TV) broadcasts information that nearby devices (such as iPhones or iPads) can use to display relevant content. This first figure shows personal devices receiving a content URL and a time offset (from the start of the programme):

Apples-second-screen-patent

Some examples of what personal devices might do given in Apple's patent description include:

- "The current film playing is… Starring ActorName…"

- "Click for the ActorName fan club"

- "Read script of film"

- "View film storyboard"

- "Show closed captions" (would work for translated subtitles)

- Show advert relevant to programme or to personal device user (This is a primary idea in the patent description that says that this method would avoid bad product placement within a film by showing ads on nearby connected devices instead).

- "Like the shirt ActorName is wearing now? Click to buy it now"

- Act as media device remote control

Many people will point out that this isn't the kind of idea that should be patentable, and that there are many examples of prior art. I'm writing about this because this patent provides hints to possible future directions for Apple products and services.

Beyond Second Screens: HomeKit

Not mentioned in the patent description that this idea would work very well with OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 HomeKit integration. As well as affecting media playback and web browsing on hand-held devices with screens, this system could also control HomeKit managed devices.

Imagine allowing a horror film to turn off the lights in your home or even play scary sounds in nearby rooms!