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Apple patent application points to new digital remote control system for Apple TV

With TV interfaces becoming increasingly complicated, a TV remote’s numbered buttons are more of a hinderance than help. As laid out in a patent application published today and filed more than a year ago, Apple hopes to reinvent the remote control by, well, eliminating the remote control.

Apparently designed as an app for, you guessed it, Apple’s iPhone and iPad, this digital remote control uses shrunken down versions of icons and pictures common in TV graphic interfaces. The approach seems similar to Google’s Chromecast, which is also controlled using mobile devices.

Related: Apple TV lands revamped UI, Beats Music app, and new sharing features

The digital remote would obviously pair nicely with Apple’s own set-top device, the Apple TV. Currently, you can navigate around Apple TV’s menus with either the aforementioned Apple TV remote control or the current version of a Remote app, but Apple’s patent looks to improve on current solutions by having the remote work across platforms, including smartphones, tablets, or laptops.

Related: Apple TV lands FX Now app in U.S., adds a glut of new content to Now TV app in U.K.

Apple digital remote controlStretching a bit further, the design could serve as the perfect solution for the mysterious device Apple is reportedly working on with Comcast (yeah, we know), which is claimed to be a sort of hybrid solution to the set-top paradigm, incorporating linear TV with streaming apps and on-demand solutions all from a single, Apple-designed interface. And of course, there’s the fabled TV set Apple has supposedly been working on for about the last decade. But we won’t even begin to speculate about that unicorn — there’s enough of that out there already.

Whether it incorporates live TV or not, users could potentially see the digital remote control go from concept to reality when Apple finally announces a hardware refresh of the aging third-gen Apple TV. Or, Apple could simply issue a software update that incorporates the new remote control interface with the current Apple TV.

However it unfolds, these concepts usually take considerable time to go from the page to the real world — if they’re adopted at all. We’ll keep track of any new developments and update this story accordingly, so stay tuned.