Apple working on video ringtones

Patently Apple recently uncovered a patent filed by Apple that describes methods for creating video ringtones for telephonic iOS devices like the iPhone. The technology is designed to allow users to automatically combine sound and video from various sources, including iTunes and iMovie, to create custom audio-visual alerts for incoming phone calls.

Patently Apple describes multiple ways the patent pending feature could automatically combine audio and video to create custom visuals for each incoming call.

In a simple example, visuals displayed on the device would react to associated audio much like a visualizer in iTunes. In another example, a layered composite could be assembled from multiple video or photographic sources. These layers could be independently animated based on different characteristics in the audio track, such as its mix of high and low frequencies.

The visuals would not be limited to 2D content. Apple's system could offer visual effects in 3D space, including movement, appearance, shape and differing camera angles.

The patent also describes a means for callers to send the "seed" information about a particular song or video. These caller "signatures" could further alter the visual experience for the recipient or offer dynamic links to relevant content for the receiver to check out later. Aside from offering a unique new method for verifying the identity of incoming callers, Patently Apple suggests this technology could bring social networking concepts to ringtones by allowing users to share their latest favorite songs and videos with the people they are calling.

The general concept of an animated ringtone is not new. App developers like iFoneTec already offer video ringtone software for the iPhone and Android platforms. (Note: iFoneTec's iPhone app appears to require a jailbroken device.) Existing video ringtone solutions appear limited to playing the same video clip every time a call comes in from a specified contact. Apple's proposed new technology seems to offer a more dynamic and extremely customizable experience that can be configured to some extent by both the caller and the receiver.

Of course, Apple often files patents for technologies that never find their way into shipping products. It's unknown whether or not we'll ever see Apple's dynamically animated ringtones on the iPhone. The technology described in the patent would certainly showcase the media capabilities of the iPhone and offer a variety of new opportunities for users to express themselves.

Apple's patent, credited to Brian McKnight and Michael Neuman, was originally filed in the third quarter of 2010.