From its early days as an online search engine, Google Inc. of Mountain View, CA, has been very involved in developing and distributing Internet-based software products such as Google Docs, an online word processing application, and the Android operating system for mobile phones. Its worldwide scope is evidenced through much of its application development, such as its decision to add 18 available languages to users of Google programs like Docs and Slides.
As a developer of Internet technologies, Google is a common applicant at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Each week, the USPTO publishes many patent applications and issues many patent to the California-based technology manufacturer. Today our Companies We Follow series takes a closer look at some of the more intriguing documents that details Google’s innovations.
A number of interesting patent applications deal with Google’s efforts to improve online mapping applications. One such application would protect a system of downloading map tiles for offline routing. An issued patent assigned to Google protects a system of depicting multi-level buildings three-dimensionally so that browsers can view flooring plans.
Other USPTO activity showcases Google’s focus on creating better media systems for mobile devices. One patent application would protect a system of synchronizing magazine content on apps for better layout among different devices. Another patent application allows users to selectively view images to conserve data usage. Finally, we look at a patent application filed to protect a system of ranking news articles based on the source publication’s quality.
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Method of Pre-Fetching Map Data for Rendering and Offline Routing
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130147820
Map rendering and routing applications help individuals quickly plan a trip between two locations, giving them a list of directions and a map that outlines the route. These applications require a great deal of data processing to return a correct route and depict that route on a map. Zooming options given to users also allows them to increase or decrease the detail of a map. This information is typically stored on map data tiles, which are cached by an application and accessed only when given a request by a user.
This Google patent application would protect a system of downloading map data tiles to a user’s local storage, making offline access to route data available. A user would command a mapping application to create a route between two points, and the computer would download the map data tiles containing that information after the route was processed. These map data tiles could be additionally processed to create secondary or return routes that are also accessible offline.
As Claim 1 indicates, Google would like to protect:
“A computer-implemented method for pre-fetching map data for a mapping application, comprising: initiating, using a computer, a first routing function to generate a first route, the first route defined by an origin, a destination, a set of roads connecting the origin to the destination, and a direction of travel; before receiving a user input to generate a desired secondary route: 1) determining, using the computer, a set of potential secondary routes based on the first route in response to initiating the first routing function, wherein at least one of the set of potential secondary routes includes a set of roads that is different from the first route, 2) assigning, using the computer, a priority to each of the set of secondary routes, 3) accessing, using the computer, a sequence of map data tile sets from a map database, wherein each of the set of secondary routes corresponds to one of the map data tile sets, and 4) storing, using the computer, the accessed map data tile sets in a local memory as pre-fetch map data tiles, wherein the local memory is different from the map database; and upon receiving the user input to generate the desired secondary route: initiating, using the computer, a rendering function to display one of the secondary routes as the desired secondary route using at least a portion of the set of pre-fetch map data tiles stored in the local memory instead of the set of map data tiles in the map database.”
Floor Selection on an Interactive Digital Map
U.S. Patent No. 8464181
Users of mapping applications can usually view building outlines along the sides of streets as they zoom in closer. Businesses or browsers may choose to upload certain data about these buildings, such as the organizations that operate within them and their hours of operation. In some cases, a mapping application may show a mall or other multi-level building. Visitors would benefit from a way of viewing flooring plans within a mapping application, but the current means of displaying information for multiple floors in a 2D mapping application are cumbersome and clutter easily.
The USPTO recently awarded Google the right to protect a system of allowing 3D floor selection for multi-level buildings within a 2D mapping application. This system would provide a three-dimensional rendering of a building on a two-dimensional street map. A gesture-based user interface would allow users to select individual floors within the building to view a flooring plan.
As Claim 1 explains, Google has been awarded the right to protect:
“A method in a computing device for providing a digital map of outdoor and indoor locations via a user interface, the method comprising: displaying a digital map of a geographic area within a viewport on the user interface, wherein the digital map includes a plurality of map elements representing outdoor physical entities; displaying an external representation of a multi-story building located in the geographic area within the viewport; receiving a selection of a point on the digital map via the user interface; in response to determining that the selected point is within the external representation of the multi-story building: generating an expanded three-dimensional (3D) representation of the multi-story building, including simultaneously displaying a plurality of floor maps corresponding to different floors of the multi-story building, and in response to detecting a swipe gesture over a point within the 3D representation of the multi-story building, activating a scrolling function for inspecting the plurality of floor maps, including changing visual attributes of the activated floor map relative to every other one of the plurality of floor maps; and in response to determining that the selected point is outside the external representation of the multi-story building: providing a plurality of functions for changing the display of the plurality of map elements representing outdoor physical entities, and activating a pan function in response to a detecting a swipe gesture.”
Systems and Methods for Improving the Ranking of News Articles
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130159294
Search engines typically allow users to search for news items based on keywords. Google’s search engine, for example, has a News feature that allows an individual to scan for articles from news publications instead of every website. Results that are returned by the engine are ranked in order of relevancy, usually based on the rate of keyword appearance within the article. However, this manner of returning news results can provide some articles from publications that are of lesser writing quality.
This patent application, filed by Google, describes a system of ranking news search results based in part upon the quality of the publication. The search engine would communicate with a server that contains quality indicators that are assigned to various publications. This quality indicator can take into account web traffic to the source, reader opinion, circulation statistics and more. When search results are returned, the quality indicator affects the ranking of links to news articles.
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As Claim 32 (Claims 1 through 31 cancelled) explains, Google would like the right to protect:
“A method comprising: determining, using one or more processors and based on receiving a search query, articles and respective scores; identifying, using one or more processors, for an article of the articles, a source with which the article is associated; determining, using one or more processors, a score for the source, the score for the source being based on: a metric that represents an evaluation, by one or more users, of the source, and an amount of traffic associated with the source; and adjusting, using one or more processors, the score of the article based on the score for the source.”
Incremental Synchronization for Magazines
U.S. Patent Application 20130145258
Many magazines have been creating web applications and have been increasing access to their content among mobile device users. Media content is regularly uploaded to the magazine’s web app, updating the content that a user can access through a mobile device. However, magazine readers are accessing mobile content through mobile devices of varying sizes. Media, especially images, that may appear clearly on one display screen may have a resolution that displays poorly on other screens.
Google has filed this patent application to protect a system of synchronizing mobile content for magazines that optimize updated content for different devices. A mobile content server would store display specifications for different devices that are accessing content. This display information would inform the content changes available to an individual user. For example, a smart phone device could show a small image designed to fit that screen, while tablet users might be able to view a larger image.
Claim 1 of this patent application explains Google’s development of:
“A method for synchronizing magazine edition content on heterogeneous mobile devices, comprising: obtaining display screen information for a mobile device, including resolution and screen dimensions; determining edition content changes for each magazine edition presented on the mobile device based on the display screen information; independently providing subscription information specific to the magazine edition content changes to the mobile device; independently providing edition summaries specific to the magazine edition content changes to the mobile device; independently providing edition design information specific to the magazine edition content changes to the mobile device; independently providing media library information specific to the magazine edition content changes to the mobile device; and when any of the independently providing steps fail, continuing magazine edition synchronization at the failed providing step.”
Selective Image Loading in Mobile Browsers
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130151937
Data plans with bandwidth restrictions usually require subscribers to be selective about the data they download to their mobile device. A browser application can take up large amounts of data, especially in the form of images and other media that is downloaded from the browser. In some cases, a user can choose to delay the download of images in order to reduce their data usage. However, the image placeholders can greatly affect the layout of a browser window and create a very confusing interface.
This Google patent application has been filed to protect a system of downloading web pages to mobile devices with better image placeholders that retain the layout of the web page. These image placeholders are the exact same dimensions as the images included in the layout. A user could click a link within the image placeholder and the image would be downloaded.
Claim 1 of this patent application would give Google the right to protect:
“A computer-implemented method for selectively viewing images in a web page on a mobile device, the method comprising: receiving, prior to a mobile device beginning download of a web page in a web browser, a selection on the mobile device to download web pages without downloading images in the web page; storing, in a memory of the mobile device, the selection to download web pages without downloading images in the web page; inserting, by the web browser, image placeholders in place of the images in the web page, wherein each image placeholder is the same height and width of the image and in the original position of the image in the web page; providing, by the web browser, the web page for display with the image placeholders in place of the images in the web page; receiving a selection of one or more image placeholders indicating a request to provide for display the one or more corresponding images; and providing the one or more corresponding images for display in place of the one or more image placeholders in the web page.”