Apple Remote to 'go universal'?
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Apple Remote to 'go universal'?

An Apple patent (number 20100052870) for an intelligent infrared remote pairing has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It indicates that Apple may be eyeing its own universal remote control or, more likely, expanding the range of the current (or future versions of the) Apple Remote.

Systems and methods for associating a remote controller with a device are provided. The systems and methods generally relate to receiving a request from a remote controller to pair the remote controller to a device at several devices and determining at each of the several devices the strength of the wireless pairing request signal received by that device. If a device determines that its received signal is the strongest, the device may be paired with the remote controller. If instead a device determines that its received signal is not the strongest, it may ignore subsequent communications received from the remote controller. The inventor is Nicholas Vincent King.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "This invention relates generally to remote controllers and devices compatible with remote controllers, and more particularly, to systems and methods for intelligently pairing a remote controller to a device.

"A remote controller (also known as remote, remote control, wireless controller, or portable remote controller) allows a user to conveniently operate a device from a distance. Remote controllers are generally included with consumer electronic devices such as televisions, stereos, cable set-top boxes, etc. More recently, newer electronic devices such as computers, video-on-demand (VOD) terminals, portable music players, and mobile phones have been designed to work with remote controllers. Furthermore, various remote controller-compatible electronic devices can now be inter-connected via wired and wireless paths.

"A typical remote controller can be battery-powered and can include a wireless transmitter, such as infrared transmitter, for sending commands to a device and buttons for specifying particular commands to send, such as POWER ON. A typical host device that works with a remote controller can include a wireless receiver, such as infrared receiver, for receiving commands from the remote controller and logic configured to interpret and carry out the commands.

"Device vendors can include compatible remote controllers with different kinds of devices it sells. For example, a vendor can include the same type of remote controller with a computer and with a docking station for portable electronic devices. In such a case, the effect of a single device responding to commands from multiple remote controllers can arise. For example, both the remote controller that came with the computer and that came with the docking station can be used to turn on the computer, which can cause user confusion. Another effect that can arise is multiple devices responding to commands from a single remote controller. For example, when the user sends a POWER ON command to turn the computer on using the remote controller that came with the computer, both the computer and the docking station can turn on in response to the POWER ON command.

"A current solution to the effect of a single device responding to commands from multiple remote controllers is to pair a remote controller with a device using a button combination on the remote controller. A remote controller can have a unique identifier transmitted with every command that identifies the command as being from that remote controller. Once that remote controller is paired with a device, the device responds only to commands from that remote controller. However, this solution does not address the effect of multiple devices responding to commands from a single remote controller.

"In accordance with various embodiments of the present invention, systems and methods for improved pairing of remote controllers with devices are provided.

"In some embodiments, a method and computer readable media for pairing a remote controller with an electronic device in communication with at least one other electronic device may be provided. The method may include receiving a pairing request from a remote controller, detecting an attribute associated with the reception of the request, and comparing the detected attribute with an attribute detected by the at least one other electronic device. The method may further include pairing the remote controller with the electronic device associated with the largest detected attribute.

"In some embodiments, a system for pairing a remote controller with an electronic device may be provided. The system may include a communications network and a remote controller is operative to provide a pairing request. The system may also include several electronic devices in communication via the communications network. Each electronic device may be operative to receive the pairing request, determine a characteristic of the received pairing request, and broadcast the determined characteristics to the other of the plurality of electronic devices. Each electronic device may then determine whether to be paired with the remote controller based on the determined characteristics.

"In some embodiments, an electronic device operative to be paired with a remote controller may be provided. The electronic device may be in communication with several electronic devices, and may include control circuitry and a receiver. The control circuitry may be operative to direct the receiver to receive a pairing request from the remote controller, detect the strength of signal of the received pairing request, and broadcast the detected strength of signal to the several electronic devices. The control circuitry may also receive a strength of signal detected by at least one of the several electronic devices from the at least one of the several electronic devices and compare the detected strength of signal and the received strength of signal. The control circuitry may selectively pair the device with the remote controller in response to comparing.

"For purposes of clarity, and not by way of limitation, the systems and methods can sometimes be described herein in the context of infrared remote controllers and compatible electronic devices (e.g., televisions, set-top boxes, computers, mobile phone/portable music player docking stations, or stereo or audio systems). However, it will be understood that the systems and methods of the present invention can be applied to any other suitable type of remote controller devices and devices compatible with such remote controller devices."

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