Patents give hints of future Apple offerings -- universal remote, universal Siri

As you well know, Apple's gadgets have had a massive influence on consumer technology. This is one creative company, and the lingering question is whether that creativity will continue in the absence of the late Steve Jobs. Recent patent applications suggest that we've only seen the beginning. They give hints that Apple is planning to create a new user interface for just about every facet of technology that you come into contact with.

Basically Apple thinks that today's interfaces are too complicated: lots of buttons and controls. Often you learn a small subset of what the device offers and stick with that. Apple wants to make it easier, more intuitive, more friendly — just like all of their other products. Yesterday AppleInsider posted information about a patent that Apple has filed for a new approach to a universal remote for TVs, settop boxes, etc., especially since the universal remotes are often even more complicated that the devices they replace.

But not Apple's. The patent application describes a remote that would use a touch screen and automatically detect appliances available for it to control. The device would control a TV, video disk player, stereo, home device control, and computer. And presumably more. This might have been what Steve Jobs was referring to when he told biographer Walter Isaacson that he had "cracked" the problems surrounding the TV interface.

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Even more exciting is the new Siri patent application described on the Forbes website. The article suggests that Apple is planning to add a natural language interface to everyhing you use. The article describes how all the devices we use have a different user interface and operational paradigm, and that often we don't have the time or the ability to learn how to use these devices. The author speculates that Siri will no longer be limited to one device but will be available across all of Apple's offerings, as well as on your home control systems. It will always be available to help you control appliances, find things, shop — and even teach you how to use new gadgets you buy.

It's a great vision, and I hope it's what Apple has in mind, and that Apple realizes this vision. There's so much in our lives that could be made simpler and more intuitive, and who better to take that on than Apple?

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.