Apple TV Gets Wand Remote Magic

The late Steve Jobs hinted to his biographer Walter Isaacson of having “cracked” the  code for  easy user  access to an Apple brand smart TV, the company’s next big thing. Now it looks like it’s done with a magical “wand” remote control that uses fingerprint sensors to authenticate viewers and deliver personalized content.

As revealed in a patent application published last week and obtained by the communications trade tracker, the wand remote will  “detect a thumbprint or fingerprint” and compare it to “a library of known prints to authenticate  or log-in the user associated with the print.” The device could then “load content specific to the identified user (e.g., a user profile, or access to the user’s recordings) or provide the user with access to restricted content (e.g . content restricted by parental control options.)”

In addition, the wand remote is plotted to  feature a built-in gyroscope for  gesture control, allowing viewers to control an on-screen cursor to navigate through menu choices with the wave of  the ‘mote. A similar stunt already  is deployed in   LG Electronics’ Magic Motion TV remote, plus game controllers for the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 3.

This fingerprint detecting remote might see service  in an upgrade to the $99 Apple TV set top box – of which 13 million have been sold.  But  the smart remote is more likely to debut as centerpiece of that fully integrated, internet-streaming -focused  Apple TV set that the company has been  striving to introduce and may already have in production. 

Popular cable/satellite channels have been unwilling to sell their services directly to and through Apple devices, throwing roadblocks in the company’s plans.  So of late Apple has shifted gears, moving to more of a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach.

Two weeks ago, the company announced deals to deliver the popular WatchESPN and HBO Go applications on Apple TV set top boxes – so long as viewers have subscriptions to the proper channels on a participating cable or satellite service. Cooperating partners include  Comcast’s Xfinity TV,  Time Warner Cable and DirecTV.

 Moreover, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt recently told an investor’s conference that he’s now  talking to both Apple and Microsoft about delivering the TWC TV app to their streaming video devices, which would then give subscribers “cable box-free” access to about 300 channels delivered on demand over broadband. That service already is available to Time Warner customers  connecting via  Roku set top boxes.

  Comcast subscribers  currently have a much smaller selection - dozens of linear channels – available to watch on an Apple iPad or Xbox 360 through the Xfinity AnyPlay service.  AnyPlay is  not  on Apple TV, as yet.   

That  fingerprint-reading,  mind detecting   Apple wand remote  also should play nicely with the forthcoming (Fall ) debut of the ad-supported  Apple iTunes Radio service which promises  a “personalized music experience”  to the user based on listening history and past purchases from iTunes.   

Yes, you will live a long life and enjoy the new Jay-Z album.