Comcast Scores Social Remote Patent

Pay TV distributors that want to allow subscribers to invite friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to watch video programs may be forced to pay license fees to Comcast.

The nation’s largest cable MSO has won a U.S. patent for an invention titled, “Intelligent remote control.” The patent, published on Tuesday, contains several images of a “social remote” user interface that subscribers could use to share and recommend content to friends on social networks.

McMahon
McMahon

Former Comcast Principal Engineer for New Media Mike McMahon is named as lead inventor on the patent. McMahon, who is also a veteran of Charter Communications, is now  based in New Zealand and working as a strategic advisor for over-the-top video for Xtream AS, Parrot Analytics and Ashabash Consulting.

Abstract: A content access device and system may allow portable remote devices to be paired with a variety of different devices, allowing remote control through a network connection. Content access devices may expose application program interfaces, allowing incoming network traffic to control operation of the device much in the same way that a local infrared remote would. Routing content commands through an external application server may also yield other benefits, such as allowing more customized selection of information and advertising content to users based on their viewing history.

Patent

Claims:

1. A method, comprising: receiving, at a content access device, a pairing request from a remote control device, the pairing request comprising a request to permit the remote control device to control the content access device; responsive to the pairing request, generating, by the content access device, a passphrase and providing the passphrase to a user of the remote control device; transmitting, by the content access device to a computing device remote from the content access device, a pairing message comprising the passphrase and an identifier of the content access device; and receiving, by the content access device from the computing device, an authorization message responsive to the pairing message, the authorization message indicating that the computing device has successfully facilitated pairing of the content access device with the remote control device.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: receiving, by the content access device from the computing device, remote control commands.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the remote control commands comprise software application calls to an application program interface of the content access device.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein the software application calls comprise enhanced television binary interchange format (EBIF) messages.

5. The method of claim 1, further comprising receiving and presenting, by the content access device, streamed audiovisual content.

6. The method of claim 1, further comprising receiving content playback control commands via Internet transmission.

7. The method of claim 1, further comprising: receiving, by the content access device, an invitation to watch a program, the invitation comprising an identification of the program and an identification of a user who sent the invitation; receiving, by the content access device, a local acceptance of the invitation; and automatically switching programs, by the content access device, to watch the identified program in response to the acceptance.

8. The method of claim 7, further comprising: opening a chat window on a screen generated by the content access device; and using the chat window to support a chat between the user of the remote control device who sent the invitation and another user who accepted the invitation.

9. The method of claim 1, further comprising: generating an invitation to watch a program currently being presented by the content access device for the user of the remote control device; and transmitting the invitation to the computing device with a request to invite another user to join the user of the remote control device in watching the program.

10. The method of claim 1, wherein providing the passphrase to a user of the remote control device comprises causing the passphrase to be presented to the user of the remote control device on a display associated with the content access device, wherein the remote control device comprises a display different from the display associated with the content access device, and wherein receiving the authorization message comprises: receiving, by the content access device from the computing device, the authorization message indicating that the content access device and the remote control device have been successfully paired based on the passphrase, the identifier of the content access device, and the passphrase presented on the display.

11. A method, comprising: receiving, at a gateway located at a first premises and from a remote control device via an interface associated with one or more computing devices, a remote control command in a first format to control a content access device located at the first premises, the remote control command comprising at least one remote control command parameter; transmitting the remote control command from the gateway to the one or more computing devices; receiving, at the gateway from the one or more computing devices, a content access device command addressed to the content access device, the content access device command being in a second format different from the first format and comprising at least one parameter based on the at least one remote control command parameter; and transmitting, from the gateway to the content access device, the content access device command.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the remote control command comprises a wireless remote control command received by the gateway over a wireless connection, and wherein the content access device comprises a video content access device.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein the wireless remote control command comprises a channel change command.

14. The method of claim 11, further comprising receiving, at the gateway from the remote control device, a second remote control command addressed to a second content access device located at the first premises; transmitting the second remote control command from the gateway to the one or more computing devices; receiving, from the one or more computing devices, a second content access device command being directed to the second content access device, the second content access device command corresponding to the second remote control command; and transmitting the second content access device command from the gateway to the second content access device.

15. The method of claim 11, further comprising receiving, at the gateway from the remote control device, a second remote control command configured to invite a different user to view content currently being viewed by a user of the content access device; and transmitting the second remote control command from the gateway to a second computing device located at the premises different from the first premises.

16. The method of claim 11, further comprising: receiving, at the gateway and from the one or more computing devices, the content access device command to tune to a different service from a currently-tuned service.

17. The method of claim 11, wherein the one or more computing devices are located at a premises remote from the first premises.

18. A method, comprising: causing, by a first computing device at a first premises, presentation of a user-selectable option to transmit a command in a first format to a second computing device, the command comprising at least one command parameter configured to cause the second computing device, that is remote from the first computing device, to transmit an electronic program guide command to a video content access device located at the first premises, the electronic program guide command being in a second format different from the first format and comprising at least one function routine to be executed by the video content access device based on the at least one command parameter; receiving a user selection of the user-selectable option; and transmitting a wireless signal comprising the command in the first format in response to the user selection of the user-selectable option.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the electronic program guide command comprises a command to open an electronic program guide for viewing.

20. The method of claim 18, further comprising causing, by the first computing device, presentation of a user selectable option to invite a different user, at a different premises, to view content currently being presented by the video content access device, and to automatically control a content access device of the different user to begin presenting the content in response to an acceptance by the different user.