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Apple eyes device that's smart to all music, video streams

In a patent, Apple outlines a media player like and iPod or iPad that would collect all the streams of content you can access and automatically switch to the ones you prefer.

Apple's patent diagram of a media player configured to receive multiple content streams. Apple/USPTO

Apple is eyeing a way to make devices smarter about the media you want to see and hear.

Dubbed "Auto-station tuning," a patent published Tuesday by the US Patent and Trademark Office envisions a media player that will analyze content streams -- over-the-air radio or television, satellite, cable, Internet content, fiber optic, etc. -- to figure out what's playing and what content will be forthcoming and switch from one source of content to another to match user preferences or criteria.

That could mean switching from one source to another "based a user's tastes for music, a give volume level, an aversion to talk radio, or other user preferences or criteria," the patent said.

Diagrams in the patent envision three possible media players under the scope of the invention described in the patent, one that looks like an iPod, another that looks like an iPad, and a third that looks like an iPod with an integrated receiver.

It also raised the example of a configuration that would have the media player automatically move from one FM radio station to a different one when an advertisement comes on.

The media player may generate playlists based on the matching content, and switch between sources of the matching content automatically, according to the patent.

"As if the user were tuning a radio dial," the media player may determine what content to play back for each station, the patent says. "The media player may procure content and generate playlists to represent each station focus on by the user."

Apple is already delivering on some of these features with its iTunes Radio product, but the prospect of an Apple device that integrates all sources of video content -- even live TV -- is a further tease of a longtime Apple ghost: an Apple HDTV. The latest discussion around Apple's television aspirations -- as it has been for more than a year -- is that late 2014 will be the time for a launch of any ultra-high definition Apple TV.

The patent was originally filed more than five years ago, in the September 2008.

(Via Apple Insider.)