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Apple Patent Allows Users to Switch Away From Commercials

Apple Patent Allows Users to Switch Away From Commercials

Apple was granted a patent this week that allows users to skip audio and video broadcast segments they might not want to listen to, such as commercials. The patent mentions the feature with such content as songs, podcasts, and other media.


Apple’s aptly titled U.S. Patent No. 8,249,497 for “Seamless switching between radio and local media” describes a system in which a mobile device will automatically switch between broadcast content and stored media to offer the user a type of customized content consumption experience.

A device would allow a user listening to content from a radio station or “non-radio media or content sources” to skip sections that don’t interest them. The gap would be filled with on-board media. Commercials are listed among the types of content that can be replaced.

From the patent background:

A user, however, may not be interested in every media item provided as part of a broadcast stream. For example, a user may not like a particular song broadcast by a radio station, or may not like a particular segment of a talk radio station (e.g., the user does not like the topic or guest of the segment). As another example, a user may not be interested in content originally generated by sources other than the media source (e.g., advertisement content). 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.

By accessing metadata from assets like Radio Data System (EDS) data, listings, or 3rd-party schedules, a device can “determine when an upcoming broadcast segment or media item is not of interest to the user.” When an event is detected, the device can automatically switch to stored media until the unwanted content plays out.

The patent employs comparisons of media items to generate a preference profile that will be used to determine the users likes or dislikes, much like with Pandora, or TiVo. A user can “like” or “dislike” a song, and that data will be included in their profile. The device could also keep track of what a user plays or views, and then make a guess as to what they would like in their profile.

When the system identifies an upcoming segment that is outside of the user’s preference, it can look up a replacement from stored content and play that back instead. The device can then monitor the broadcast stream to choose an opportune moment to switch away from stored content, or can buffer the stream for later listening or viewing enjoyment.

While the patent does not specifically mention television broadcasts, the system could be tweaked to lend itself to say, a set-top box, such as the one Apple is rumored to be shopping around to U.S. cable providers. Insiders say the cloud-based unit is meant to blur the lines between live and on-demand television content.