August 28, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Apple Patents iPhone-Controlling Speakers, Fireplaces, More

We have theorized that, eventually, apps won’t need smartphones, which will be nice in some situations.

But maybe, as a stepping stone to the internet of things, the smartphone will function as a sort of dashboard for your home — that is, before gesture detection, “stick them anywhere” buttons, micro projectors, and other such weirdnesses take over.

Apple appears to think so. It’s foolish to assume (not that it stops people from trying) that a company is going to build everything it patents a design for, especially when that company is Apple, which is notorious for scuttling projects even after spending years working on them. Still, this is interesting: On Tuesday, Apple was awarded a patent for which it filed way back in 2008 for controlling computers, speakers, televisions, fireplaces, lamps, and other devices from the iPhone.

Not only that, but it will let the user save “scenes,” so you can whip your entire home into different configurations based on what you’re doing. If Apple goes a step further and adds these capabilities to the iOS API (and why wouldn’t it?), this could allow a music app running on an iPhone to alter everything from the volume level of speakers, the color of a lamp, the level of a fireplace, and who knows what else, based on the genre of the song, its “danceability,” or anything other aspect.

Even if Apple doesn’t open these capabilities up to third-party developers, its patented home remote control app would allow you to set “scenes” to go  with each of your playlists, control music around the home, and more. Say you’re about to rock “Sunday Morning Pancake Jams Vol. 2.” You might tell the iPhone to brighten up the lights, make sure the fireplace is off, open the blinds, and adjust all the speakers in the house to medium. When the kids go to bed, it’s time for “Slow Jams,” at which point the fireplace lights up, and the speakers and lights turn down. You get the idea.

Apple’s screenshots provide further demonstration of how this would work. Here are some saved “scenes”:

Here’s where you add devices to be controlled by scenes (or manually on their own):

This is how you’d control the television with the app (music devices such as the A/V receiver mentioned in another image below would presumably work in a similar way):

It would also let you access stuff on your computer to zap around to other places in your house (routing music from a laptop upstairs to a speaker in the yard, for example, or accessing your computer’s software for controlling lights around the home):

For Study Mode, we’d probably recommend losing the television:

Our favorite: “Fireplace cannot be contacted”:

It will be interesting to see what happens as the sort of automated home features that Bill Gates and other big spenders have had for years roll out to the rest of us, including the music “scene.”

(via AppleInsider)