The Redeye Complex

Monday, December 31, 2007
Audio Assisted Navigation

One of the criteria for music playback with my home server is being able to select and play songs without turning on a TV. If a computer is involved then normally you need a monitor to see what you are doing. Is that the only way?

There are small screen interfaces that might be okay. Small screens however mean slow navigation through large music collections.

I had a thought the other day. Since I need speakers to hear music, could I not use the same speakers to assist my menu navigation?

Did some searching on the net and found some interesting links.

IEEE has an published paper called Music Mood Wheel: Improving Browsing Experience on Digital Content through an Audio Interface.
Mobile devices for listening to digital music can now contain a huge number of musical titles. Search for appropriate music content becomes difficult and time-consuming. The interfaces on MP3 CD players or flash MP3 players available on the market usually combine buttons, jog-wheels and small displays of one to three lines. The most common approach to music browsing is still either one-step forward and backward movement with two buttons, or moving inside a tree of options. In our approach, we shift from the "tree of options" paradigm to a "search by ear" browsing experience.
Next I read about an Apple patent that might lend an ear to this ...
So for example when an iPod user wants to play “In the air tonight” by Phil Collins he navigates to the song using his preferred path: “Menu”->”Music”->”Pop”->”Phil Collins”->”In the air tonight”->”Play”. However instead of having to look at the screen, all along the way he hears audio prompts advising him on the next navigation steps.

Now, audio navigation menus are used in various business applications for a long time and there’s not much to patent here. However the clever thing with this particular Apple’s patent seems to be the way they solved the dynamic synchronization problem for constantly changing metafiles of huge music collections stored on the iPod.
So perhaps there will be some new navigation methods in the future. Just have to stay tuned.


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