Apple patents multi-service TV and radio; allows users to automatically skip ads

“Apple on Tuesday was awarded a patent for a system that analyzes on-board, broadcast or streamed audio and visual media content to create a custom tailored playlist that can switch between sources to deliver an optimal user experience [U.S. Patent No. 8,634,944 for ‘Auto-station tuning’],” Mikey Campbell reports for AppleInsider.

“While Apple has patented similar technology in the past, such as an invention that allows users to automatically skip commercials, Tuesday’s property is more extensive in scope,” Campbell reports. “For example, the auto-tuning patent covers radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, Internet audio and video streams, satellite radio, on-board media and more.”

“As described, the system can analyze data from multiple media streams to determine what is currently playing and, more importantly, what will be played next. Using this information, the device can dynamically switch ‘stations,’ or media streams, based on user-defined parameters,” Campbell reports. “For example, a user may tell the device to tune to a different FM radio station when an advertisement is detected.”

Much more, including Apple’s patent application illustrations, in the full article here.


  1. When I read the MDN article, I thought that the idea was flawed, because when it switches to another station during the adverts, it needs to make a sensible decision about when to switch back. You may have found the alternative station interesting and might not want it abruptly cut off.

    However the linked article goes into a lot more detail and explains that the idea is to switch away to something hosted locally, like music or video from your iTunes. Once the ads are over, the system can make an intelligent choice about switching back and the choices include the option to time shift the original station and resume playing once your iTune selection is over.

    Now that sounds like a workable solution, but I don’t think that the advertisers are going to like it.

      1. Don’t blame the advertisers. I can guarantee you that they would prefer that their ads didn’t have to complete with a hundred others and that they cost less. Look, someone has to pay for immence cost of broadcasting a football game, and to pay the NFL and all its players and coaches. If it weren’t for the advertisers you wouldn’t have a televised game to complain about.

            1. Not a sports fan huh? Timeouts may not be grammatically correct, but it is by far the generally accepted usage of the term in all of sports land.

    1. It is a good thing that Apple makes most of it’s money selling products, devices and services and not ads. Sounds like a great car audio system. Listen to a station until the ads then fill in with something I would rather hear then jump back into the live stream delayed to the end of the ads. Kind of what I do when I watch recorded TV.

    2. They have a mechanism where the advertiser still gets paid!

      I think they already pay record companies directly per song in iTunes Radio if you pay for Match, avoiding commercials.

      They are worming their way into the hearts and pocketbooks of the “free-with-Ads” model of over the air broadcasters.

  2. An algorithm to detect anomalies and switch input channels to avoid content you don’t like? Wow … I hope Apple implements this on iTunes radio. Why do Apple think I will purchase songs by Pink when they insert them into any channel, even Mediation Piano music? Angela A — please fix this!!!

    1. An algorithm to detect anomalies and switch input channels to avoid content you don’t like

      The absolute brilliance and seductive appeal of such technology would seem to put the inventor’s life at risk, in the manner of the 100 mpg carburetor of urban legend.

      The ultimate filter! Not just advertising, but content could be tuned. Minds could be further narrowed — deliberately tuned to frequencies in the spectrums of consumption, of opinion, of political belief. The consequences of widespread adoption would be breathtaking, society-altering, soul-robbing.

      Even more shocking in its cultural insult, its implementation could turn the comments section of MDN and every tech blog and forum into ghost towns. Believers of all persuasions would enjoy conformity within their silos of bliss. The lion need no longer lie down with the lamb, as the end game would solve all social problems through voluntary isolation.

      The only misgiving in this utopian fantasy is the likelihood of rebels against conformity seeking out challenge, and starting the whole mess all over again.

      Oh, well. I had a dream…

    1. You know, you really were a jackass for suggesting that Mileva Einstein provided Albert with some of his most critical ideas and did the math. True or not, the moral function of a historian is not to be a gadfly but a curator of a national treasure, a voice sustaining the mythos that binds a way of thinking. To do otherwise is, as you have learnt since publishing Steve Jobs, to be labeled a revisionist. Humanity needs its inspirational symbols far more desperately than it needs sordid journalistic reductionism.

  3. I’d rather tv networks completely ditch fullscreen video ads in favour of airing more shows, and making most ads overlayed on top of whatever you’re watching at most, with an option to remove ads altogether, like for a fee not exceeding your monthly cable’s bill. Could be a killer function if made mainstream.

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