TWO-WAY COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN
A REMOTE CONTROL UNIT AND ONE OR
MORE DEVICES IN AN AUDIO/VISUAL
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED
The subject matter of the present application is related to copending U.S. application Ser. No. 09/074,683, filed contemporaneously with this application, assigned to Sony Corporation and to Sony Electronics, which is expressly incorporated herein by reference.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates generally to communications of a remote control unit in an audio/visual environment, and more particularly to two-way communications between a remote control unit and one or more devices in an audio/ visual environment.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Remote control units are commonly used in audio/visual (A/V) environments to control various audio/visual equipment and devices. Audio/visual equipment includes, but is not limited to, the following: compact disc (CD) players, VCRs, televisions (TVs), digital visual discs (DVDs), and stereo components such as stereo receivers. Communications between a remote control unit and the audio/visual equipment which it controls have typically been one-way from the remote control unit to the A/V equipment, with the audio/visual equipment receiving commands from the remote control unit and the audio/visual equipment acting in accordance with these commands.
The current state of the art with regard to communications between a remote control unit and audio/visual equipment is illustrated in the block diagram 10 of FIG. 1. In FIG. 1, any number N of audio/visual equipment, such as A/V Devicel of Block 12, A/V Device 2 of Block 14, . . . A/V DeviceN of Block 16, may be controlled by a remote control unit, shown as Remote Control of Block 20. The Remote Control controls one or more of the audio/visual equipment by sending out commands to which the targeted audio/visual equipment responds. Remote Control 20 and a targeted A/V device communicate via a one-way communications link 18, which is typically infra-red. Communications between one or more A/V Devices are typically accomplished by a two-way serial link 22, such as the S-Link known in the industry.
One-way communications between the remote control unit and audio/visual equipment, while providing for the transmission of information in the form of control messages from the remote control unit to the audio/visual equipment, do not provide for the flow of information in the opposite direction from the audio/visual equipment to the remote control unit. As such it is not currently possible to pass information in a two-way, bi-directional manner between a remote control unit and A/V equipment.
The limitation of not being able to achieve bi-directional information exchange necessarily limits the usefulness of the remote control unit. Because information from the A/V equipment being controlled is not made available to the remote control, the commands generated by the remote control must be generic in nature, with no opportunity for customization of remote control commands based upon the characteristics of the particular A/V equipment being controlled. For instance, with existing remote control technology, it is not possible to transmit the table of contents (TOC) of a music CD in a CD player from the CD player to
the remote control unit in order to create customized playlists based upon the TOC for that particular music CD in the CD player at the time.
In light of the above discussion, it is clear that there exists
5 a need in the art to be able to have two-way communications between a remote control unit and various A/V equipment being controlled by the remote control unit. Such a communications capability would greatly add to the usefulness and flexibility of remote control units. Many new remote
10 control features, not previously contemplated, could then be developed and implemented.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is accordingly an object of the invention to have 15 two-way communications between a remote control unit and various A/V equipment being controlled by the remote control unit.
It is further an object of the invention that such twocommunications between the remote control unit and A/V
20 equipment will facilitate the development and implementation of various new remote control features that may be customized according to the characteristics of the particular A/V equipment to be controlled.
Therefore, according to the present invention, a remote
25 control unit has a two-way communications link with one or more audio/visual devices in an audio/visual system, thereby providing for the bi-directional exchange of information between the remote control unit and the one or more audio/visual devices. The remote control unit may also have
3Q a two-way communications link with an informationproviding device, such as a personal computer, in order that the remote control unit have access to information external to the audio/visual system, such as information on the Internet. The two-way communications link may be an infra-red communications link or a serial communications
The bi-directional flow of information to and from the remote control unit allows for the creation of customized remote control commands based upon characteristics of a particular A/V device being controlled by the remote control 40 unit and external information provided to the remote control unit through the information-providing device. Using the present invention, the creation of many new remote control features is possible.
45 BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The novel features believed characteristic of the invention are set forth in the claims. The invention itself, however, as well as the preferred mode of use, and further objects and advantages thereof, will best be understood by reference to 50 the following detailed description of an illustrative embodiment when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawing(s), wherein:
FIG. 1 is a block diagram of communications between a remote control unit and audio/visual devices, according to 55 the prior art;
FIG. 2 is a block diagram of bi-directional communications between a remote control unit and various audio/visual devices, according to the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a block diagram of bi-directional communica60 tions between a remote control unit and a personal computer (PC), as well as between the remote control unit and various audio/visual devices, according to the present invention;
FIG. 4 is a graphical user interface representation of an audio/visual device as it might appear on the display of a 65 personal computer, according to the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a graphical user interface representation of the table of contents of a music compact disc as it might appear