US 20070077784 A1
An adapter provides a link between a digital media player having a memory on which is stored digital media files, a display device, and a remote control. The adapter receives from the digital media player data which is used to generate a representation of a user interface which is provided to the display device for display. The adapter also receives from the remote control data for use in generating commands for controlling operations of the digital media player whereby a change in state of the digital media player resulting from a performance of an operation caused by the remote control will be reflected in the user interface on the display device.
1. An adapter for providing a link between a digital media player having a memory on which is stored digital media files, a display device, and a remote control, the adapter comprising:
a processor having associated programming for receiving from the digital media player data for use in generating a representation of a user interface for the digital media player which is provided to the display device for display and associated programming for receiving from the remote control data for use in generating commands for controlling operations of the digital media player wherein a change in state of the digital media player resulting from a performance of an operation caused by the remote control will be reflected in the user interface on the display device.
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A described adapter device provides both remote control and a graphical user interface on a television or other secondary viewable screen for accessing, controlling, and browsing the contents of a device that does not have built in remote control or television user interface capabilities. The attached second device could be, for example, a portable digital media player such as an Apple iPodŽ or the like.
Using the Apple iPodŽ as an example (but understanding that the principles described are broadly applicable to portable media player devices in general), the iPodŽ has a serial communications interface on a connector located on the bottom of the device. This communications interface can receive input commands for actions such as play/pause, left, up, select, etc. The communications interface can also send text information that mimics the information displayed on the iPodŽ LCD. This interface is provided to allow external devices to control playback of media stored within the iPodŽ. For example, automobile manufacturers may offer integration kits that use the serial protocol to connect steering wheel or dashboard buttons to the iPodŽ and to also display iPodŽ player and browsing interface text on a secondary dash mounted display.
It is also known to offer add-on IR remote controls that can be used to control an iPodŽ from a distance, often in combination with a docking station which facilitates connecting the analog music outputs of the iPodŽ to a conventional stereo receiver, etc.
The market for accessories for portable media player devices is very large. In this arena, the iPodŽ portable media player is currently the number one portable media player at the time of writing and will thus be used by way example in the detailed descriptions that follow. It will nevertheless be understood and appreciated that the principles expressed herein are broadly applicable to any media player device in general which is capable of receiving control information and outputting information related to media being played on the device.
As noted, there are several existing accessories that allow an iPodŽ to be connected to a home stereo system, but they add nothing to the functionality of the device and are basically just cables or passive docks for cable management. There are also remote control devices, but they only offer basic playback control, no browsing of the content stored within the iPodŽ is possible.
There is thus no product in the market that connects an iPodŽ to a TV or other display screen for the purpose of rendering the text serial interface data on a TV screen such that it is readable from a distance. The iPodŽ Photo model connects to a TV for photo display, but not for browsing with a remote. There are also no products in the market today that provide both an enhancement of the iPodŽ display as well as a wireless remote control.
Accordingly, a need exists for an adapter device which allows a user to remotely access, browse, and control a portable media player using an IR remote and a television or other display screen.
Portable media players, such as the exemplary Apple iPodŽ, are often built with only buttons and a small screen for access, browsing, and controlling playback of media. When the portable media player is provided with a secondary method for control input and display output such as a serial port, the player may be used with a dock to enhance the user experience.
The proposed adapter device can be implemented as a dock that the media player rests in, as a standalone box connected to the media player via a cable, or as a built in component of another appliance such as a stereo receiver, media renderer, DVR, and the like.
The adapter device (which for convenience may on occasion hereafter be simply referred to as a “dock,” with the understanding that such a device may also be implemented as a standalone box, cable, recharging station add-on, built-in component, etc.) comprises a CPU capable of generating a television display signal and a receiver for accepting input from a wireless remote. When a user presses a button on the associated remote control, the adapter device receives the IR, translates it into the serial protocol used by the portable media player and transmits the message to the portable media player. The portable media player sends a message to the adapter device stating that the display interface has changed, and the adapter device updates the data displayed on the TV.
By way of example only,
Since the time required to transfer the album art to the dock could be substantial (for example, in the case of a large hard disk based portable media playback device, parsing and extracting album art from 60 GB of media files could take tens of minutes to process), the dock may include an embedded or user upgradeable library of album art that could be matched to songs on the portable media player based on title, artist, etc. This would eliminate the requirement for a USB or other high speed digital link into the portable media player.
Alternatively or in conjunction with the above feature the dock may also include a network connection that could search a remote database for album art as well as other ancillary information such as local concerts based on the album, artist, title, etc. data that is received from the serial link on the portable media player.
The dock may also include Flash memory card slots (CF Card, SD Card, MemoryStick, etc.) for showing photos or storing album art for the music playing on the portable media player.
The adapter device may also leverage the TV UI for programming a universal remote control. The dock CPU may be adapted to display a list of brands or models of TV, Stereo, etc and together with the correct codes for programming the remote. The dock may also send an IR command to a learning remote for programming the remote. The dock may also have a connector for transferring configuration data to the remote via a wired connection.
The associated remote control may include buttons for preset songs, playlists, modes, etc on the portable media player, when the dock receives a command corresponding to one of these buttons it could automatically cause the portable media player to jump to the indicated function. These presets might for example be programmed into the dock by pressing a program button on the remote control or holding down a preset button on the remote control for several seconds. The preset buttons may also be located on the dock (either individually or as duplicates of the remote control button functions) for use without a remote control.
One alternate embodiment may use an IR blaster on the dock to control the TV and stereo. This would permit the use of a less expensive remote control, while still providing remote control of other devices. This design would also allow the dock to execute macros for automating tasks such as turning on both the TV and stereo when the portable media player is turned on.
The dock could also be a charging station for the portable media player.
By way of further detailed example, an exemplary product embodiment (hereafter referred to as the “MediaPod”) is now described.
The MediaPod allows a user to dock their iPodŽ and use a remote control to browse the contents of the iPodŽ on the television and control playback of music through the stereo. The dock connects to the iPodŽ using a cradle connector and the “Apple Accessory Protocol” which is a serial interface for controlling the browse and playback functions of the iPodŽ. Audio is decoded and converted to analog in the iPodŽ, and routed from the analog output pins of the cradle connector through the dock to the home stereo system. Any music available on the iPodŽ, including FairPlay DRM protected files, can be played using the dock. The iPodŽ is also charged while on the dock.
The design intent is to produce a low cost device without networking, internal audio processing, USB, etc., though as will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, such hardware may be added as desired in alternative designs, as necessary to support the extended features previously described.
The major components of the product are as follows: An enclosure which houses the main computer board responsible for generating the TV UI and controlling the iPodŽ, a LED (or other visual feedback device) to indicate power and IR receiver status, a barrel jack connector for power/charging input, an iPodŽ docking connector, audio and video output jacks (for example, RCA style), an S-Video output jack, and an IR Receiver. The electrical architecture of this main element is illustrated in
The main computer board comprises a microprocessor, flash and RAM memory, as well as the necessary glue circuitry to accommodate the various interfaces. The microprocessor may preferably include integrated video processing capabilities, such as for example the CS98200 available from Cirrus Logic Inc. Firmware programming for implementing the operational functions described and user interface (described in more detail later) may run for example under the Nucleus OS provided by Cirrus logic, and leverage the Sonata development platform. The Apple Accessory Protocol may be used to communicate with and control the docked device.
Audio output format is standard analog stereo via conventional red/white RCA jacks. Video output is 480×720, interlaced in either NTSC or PAL (factory selected according to shipping destination) via either composite (yellow RCA jack) or S-Video (Mini-Din).
The main enclosure may also include a power button for turning the MediaPod on and off, as well as a green LED which will be illuminated when the MediaPod is “on”. When the cradle is powered “off” (but still has power through the wall adapter), the green LED will be off even though the iPodŽ will be charging whenever it is docked in the main enclosure—regardless of whether the MediaPod is on or off. (Charging status will be displayed on the iPodŽ screen.)
The iPodŽ controls will be disabled when docked.
The provided simple remote control is equipped with buttons to mimic the iPodŽ user interface as well as to provide basic TV and stereo control capabilities. By way of example, the following buttons may be provided:
iPodŽ dock dedicated buttons:
TV dedicated buttons
Stereo dedicated buttons
Stereo OR TV dedicated buttons
Non-IR transmitting keys
The remote control may also have a LED for user feedback. This is used to signify when the remote control is in setup mode and also to provide a visual indicator when the batteries need replacement. During normal operation, the LED will illuminate when a key is pressed; during setup, the LED will serve to provide user feedback as is well known in the art, see for example U.S. Pat. No. 6,720,904 of like assignee which is incorporated herein by reference in it's entirety. Low battery status may for example be indicated by a series of flashes every time a key is pressed, as is also well known in the art.
The user interface may include all text-based UI elements available on the iPodŽ LCD. In this exemplary embodiment, there may not be any way to show album art on the TV because the connection to the iPodŽ is only serial and audio. The user interface, however, may include some generic graphical elements in order to make the GUI as engaging and entertaining as possible, for example icons that relate to the genre of the music that is currently playing.
If supported by the iPodŽ Connector protocol, the firmware may also enable the user to “browse by letter” (BBL)—that is, jump to a specific element in a list by indicating the starting letter (rather than just “paging down” to it).
Additionally the MediaPod may support on-screen setup of the remote control to control the consumer's TV and Stereo.
Because the screen during music playback will be effectively static, the MediaPod may have a screensaver mode that will time out the GUI after a period of time in order to prevent screen burn-in. The screensaver will be enabled by default, but with the user option to disable.
All buttons on the remote control will support “press and hold” functionality (that is, when held they will continue to repeatedly send out the same IR signal) with a 30-second timeout. The MediaPod may respond to these repetitive signals as follows:
The MediaPod may output a video signal whenever it is powered on. If no iPodŽ is docked the video out will indicate that “no iPodŽ is present”. Likewise, when the MediaPod is powered off, no video signal should be output.
The MediaPod may support multiple languages and may auto-detect the language that the currently docked iPodŽ is set to. Alternatively, language selection may be user-selectable.
If supported by the iPodŽ Extended Protocol, the MediaPod may be configured to control photo slideshows from an iPodŽPhoto.
While exemplary embodiments of the invention has been described in detail, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various modifications and alternatives to those details could be developed in light of the overall teachings of the disclosure. Accordingly, the particular arrangements disclosed are meant to be illustrative only and not limiting as to the scope of the invention which is to be given the full breadth of the appended claims and any equivalents thereof.
All patents, patent applications, and other references cited within this document are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.