Apple is developing Audio Hyperlinks, a way for audio streams to link to other media or control devices – TechCrunch

Apple is working on a new kind of “audio hyperlink” technology (patent filing via AppleInsider) that would use audible or inaudible signals embedded in a music or other audio track to connect to other media or to perform certain functions on the device when encountered. This would allow devices like iPhones to perform a number of different functions when they encounter said hyperlinks, just as a user would when browsing the internet and finding traditional links.

Here’s a practical example: a podcast can embed said audio hyperlink, then pause playback of the main track when hit, in order to either recall a specific segment earlier in the podcast itself, or open a second audio stream stored on the web and play it, or even open another application or call a video or another website from the web. It could even be used to call another app and activate shopping activity, embedding e-commerce opportunities into the audio, which would be perfect for deriving affiliate revenue from podcasts or directing users from iTunes Radio to app and music shopping opportunities.

Currently, Apple’s “enhanced podcast” format can do some of this, but it still requires metadata to be added and the file to be saved in AAC format. This would put the relevant links directly into the audio stream itself, making it much more portable. The audio hyperlink can also be tied to some sort of input trigger, so users would have to press their device, use voice input, or activate a link before it actually worked.

The invention has the potential to transform audio files into something truly interactive and better suited to the multimedia-rich mobile platforms that exist today. Its obvious benefits would be for audio podcasts, but the technology could also be applied to things like music, video, and even ringtones or other notifications.

This is one of those media format technologies that, even if introduced tomorrow (unlikely, as it’s a fairly recent patent application from 2012), would take a while to be widely adopted, and could face challenges becoming very popular unless made into an industry standard. But it’s also an exciting invention that could change the way we interact with our computing devices on a fundamental level, so it’s definitely an area to watch for future developments.

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