Apple “Audio Hyperlinking” Technology Controls a Device UI with Inaudible Sonic Pulses

A recent Apple patent filing published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows that the company is working on a method of encoding hyperlinks into an audio stream. This would open the door for content creators to insert a link to other media into the audio stream.


The patent spotted, by AppleInsider, is “Audio hyperlinking” and shows multiple similarities to the current enhanced podcast technique — used to add content to an AAC audio file — but it differs because it allows hyperlinks to be inserted directly into the audio stream.

The hyperlink indicator can be embedded in the stream as either an audible or inaudible tone. As soon as the device identifies and decodes the hyperlink, it will display information about the link, or based on the inserted code it can take any action as instructed: this could be actions like pausing the audio and direct the listener to another position in the track, or maybe a media file.

A decaying pulse amplitude can also be applied to limit the time in which a hyperlink is active. In this case, a user may have to touch the device’s screen, use voice commands, or interact with physical buttons to follow the link. Once the signal reaches a certain threshold, the hyperlink becomes inaccessible.

This type of technology already was used during a Lady Gaga concert. She performed a song that contained inaudible tones, distinguished only by electronic devices. These high frequency tones were translated by Sonic Notify into a type of hyperlink that prompted smartphones to webpages and images.

Although we don’t know if Apple will indeed use this technology in the future, this certainly sounds attractive, especially for advertisers in light of the recently introduced iTunes Radio that will go mainstream in the United States with the launch of iOS 7 this fall.

Apple’s patent application was filed in 2012 and credits Samir Gehani as inventor.