This week, we start our holiday focus by profiling Xbox developer Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, WA, for our Companies We Follow series. This multinational electronics and software developer is offering many consumer devices this Christmas, and even offers customers large discounts on its various tablets, computers and video games through its 12 Days of Deals sales. To get an idea of what kind of interesting new devices and technologies may be available to consumers these holidays, we’ve gone through the published patent applications and issued patents released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and have explored a couple of them in detail.
Microsoft already has a massive patent portfolio, but it has continued to increase in recent weeks. We’ve pulled up a trio of patents related to online gaming through Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE network, including methods of using gamer profiles on multiple consoles as well as validating untrusted games for inclusion on the LIVE network. Another Microsoft patent also shows the technology developer’s interest in improving means of advertising within multiplayer games online.
Patent applications that caught our attention include a couple related to virtual reality applications, especially one that involves virtual manipulation of a physical environment in response to a story being read. We also look at an application regarding a dynamic system of using workout videos to create an individualized exercise experience for Xbox console users.
The story of the Xbox video gaming brand, which is owned by Microsoft, begins when the original Xbox console was first introduced on November 15, 2001 in the United States. This was Microsoft’s first foray into the video gaming world. Soon after the introduction of the original Xbox console Microsoft launched the Xbox Live service in November 2002. Xbox Live allows players to play games online with a broadband connection. The Xbox 360, which has sold in excess of 78 million units worldwide, was the successor of the original Xbox and was released in November 2005. For more history see Xbox on Wikipedia.
Microsoft’s latest endeavor, called Xbox One, went on sale Friday, November 22, 2013, has already sold over 2 million units. The Xbox One brings together multiplayer experiences through Xbox Live and a variety of entertainment offerings into a system built to both provide exceptional gaming experiences today but which will also be scalable into the future. The new-generation Kinect incorporate into the Xbox One offers improved voice and motion control, seamlessly responding to your commands and gestures and making new gaming experiences possible.
“We believe a truly next-generation system must deliver not only incredible games but also all of the entertainment you love in one device,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Marketing, Strategy and Business, Xbox. “From your favorite games, to the hottest TV shows, movies and music, to surfing the Web, to Skype conversations with your family and friends, only on Xbox One can you instantly switch between all of your entertainment and snap them together — all with the sound of your voice.”
Those within the patent and innovation industries may recall that the IPO Educational Foundation awarded the inventor of Kinect, Alex Kipman, with the 2012 National Inventor of the Year Award. Kinect, which is undoubtedly most closely associated with the Xbox brand, allows users to control video games and gadgets (such as robots) through the use of controller free motion. In other words, the movements the user makes are mimicked by a game or robot without the need to physically interact with a joystick or controller. Kinect also supports voice commands as well. The technology could well revolutionize any number of remote activities as it matures, allowing for superior human control of machines from afar.
Issued Patents of Note
Patent applications are always a good indication of the current research and development goals of any corporation, but the portfolio of issued patents held by that company is a better benchmark of that company’s strength in intellectual property. Not surprisingly, given that the Xbox is one of the world’s most popular gaming consoles, this holiday season patents on a number of Microsoft developments related to the Xbox system caught our attention.
Even more gaming options will be available to users of Xbox LIVE, the online gaming network for Microsoft, as a result of U.S. Patent No. 8607324, entitled Untrusted Gaming System Access to Online Gaming Service. This patent protects a system of validating games offered by untrusted systems so as to allow them on the Xbox network while preventing hacked modifications or cheating within the game environment. The portability of gamer profiles is enhanced by U.S. Patent No. 8602897, titled Extended and Editable Gamer Profile. This development allows gamers to access their personal profiles through different Xbox consoles, a service that hadn’t been offered up to now. Also, U.S. Patent No. 8597125, issued under the title System and Method for Configuring Game Data About Players, offers a more complete system of synthesizing data about a gamer’s online gaming use. This system makes it easier to compile data from different games in order to get a more complete sense of a player’s skill and preferences rather than determining skill on a game-by-game basis.
Virtual reality worlds are again the focus of a couple of other Microsoft patents we’re exploring this week. For instance, U.S. Patent No. 8594467, titled Interactive Virtual Display System for Ubiquitous Devices, protects a system of using a mobile device to interact with a wearable thin client, such as digital glasses, to create a virtual display through the mobile computing device. Finally, we also took a look at U.S. Patent No. 8600779, issued under the title Advertising with an Influential Participant in a Virtual World. This system is designed to improve the ability to advertise within massively multiplayer online (MMO) worlds, although it should be noted that the excessive length of Claim 1 may make this patent incredibly narrow in its protections.
Microsoft patent applications are abundant at the USPTO. Each of the past few weeks have seen at least a few dozen patent applications being published by the patent office. We are intrigued by a few applications related to virtual reality environments being developed by this major software developer. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20130326364, entitled Position Relative Hologram Interactions, provides a better system for positioning virtual objects seen through a head-mounted display device within the physical environment that the person wearing the display is actually moving through. U.S. Patent Application No. 20130307855, which is titled Holographic Story Telling, describes a system of providing an augmented reality through a virtual reality display which is responsive to a story being read. The holograms appearing in this way may depict characters from the story performing certain actions, and they can be displayed in a pace that corresponds to the speed at which a person is reading the story.
Other patent applications discuss improvements to the user experience for many media software programs developed by Microsoft. Problems associated with finding television shows or media that a certain group of individuals will all enjoy are addressed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20130326555, entitled User Preferences for Content. This application describes a computer system that can detect individual viewers through a camera. Once individual viewers have been identified, their preferences can be analyzed by the system to find movies or television shows to recommend for the entire group. U.S. Patent Application No. 20130316316, filed under the title Dynamic Exercise Content, describes a system of providing fitness videos to users in a non-linear way so that a more effective workout routine can be created for individual users, instead of all users following the same regimen from a workout video.