A recently published patent may provide a new method for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to deliver supplemental content through its upcoming iTunes Radio service. In a patent titled “Audio Hyperlinking,” Apple outlines a way for listeners to seamlessly receive linked resources in a song or podcast by encoding hyperlinks directly in an audio stream, reports Apple Insider.
In the patent background description, Apple notes that, “hyperlinking has typically been limited to textual documents.” Although audio programs often reference other resources, Apple points out that there is no current method for providing hyperlinks that are embedded in the audio stream itself.
Apple Insider notes that Apple’s patent bears certain similarities to the method used for transmitting images and URLs in “enhanced podcasts.” However, that method typically transmits extra content by packaging it into the file’s metadata. Apple’s patent will provide a hyperlink embedded directly in the audio stream.
The audio hyperlink could function in several different ways. It could initiate an automatic response from the receiving computer, or it could be conditional upon further action from the user. The encoded audio tone could also be either inaudible or audible to the listener.
Further, the receiving computer could automatically “traverse a hyperlink encoded with the audio stream to a destination object during playback of the audio stream” while also transcending “the hyperlink responsive to a user manipulation of a user interface.” In other words, a user may have to physically click on the interface to activate the hyperlink.
The patent also describes an embodiment “wherein the encoded audio pulse decreases in amplitude over time, and wherein the hyperlink becomes unavailable upon the amplitude of the encoded audio pulse reaching a predetermined threshold amplitude.” This would place a time limit on the availability of the audio hyperlink. For example, an audio hyperlink embedded in a song may only be available during the first 30 seconds of playback.
Although Apple’s patent may feature some unique embodiments, Apple Insider points out that similar technology is already in use by other programs. Apple Insider notes that the Sonic Notify service utilizes inaudible frequencies to activate features in smartphones. However, Apple’s version of this technology could give the Cupertino-based company a unique way to provide extra content to its iOS users when the iTunes Radio service becomes fully available to the public this fall.
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