The patent has been recently awarded to Apple by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, despite being filed back in 2008.
The patent describes a function called “Auto-station tuning,” which basically functions as a playlist generator. It will pull in audio and visual content from various sources such as radio and television broadcasts as well as onboard media to create and deliver a custom playlist based on the user’s preferences. The function would factor in user patterns and even metadata when generating a custom playlist. Its a bit similar to the Genius feature found in iTunes, but deals with many more sources and types of content.
Users will be able to control this function through a graphical user interface controlled via gestures. The GUI will resemble a radio tuner, through which users will be able to preview stations and even search for specific content based on criteria, and can even select when automatic station tuning is to be switched on. By applying threshold limits to media, the function will be able to determine user preferences when it comes to volume, color, hue and more. So if it detects that a broadcast radio station is playing an advertisement, the function will automatically switch to a different content stream, which will be selected based on available data.
It can’t be said for sure right now if this feature will make it to Apple mobile devices in the near future, though it would compliment iTunes Radio nicely. The thing about patented technologies is that one can’t ever be sure if they’ll see the light of day.