The Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, CA, has been a driving force in the personal computing industry for a couple of decades now. The company will be rolling out its line of Surface Pro 3 tablet/laptop computers in the coming days, a thinner and lighter model than its predecessors which also has a larger screen. Users of Microsoft’s online services, including OneDrive, Bing and Windows-related services, will enjoy new terms of service developed by the company to enhance privacy and reduce targeted ads. The longtime creator of computer software technologies is also getting into the wearable tech industry and has been developing a pair of pants which includes a phone charger for a mobile phone.
IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series always tries to pay close attention to the intellectual property activities of the world’s largest consumer electronics developers. Microsoft’s investment into research and development for computing technologies results in a large number of patent filings registered at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We return once again to focus on patent applications and recently issued patents assigned to Microsoft to provide an interesting look into this corporation’s innovations for our readers.
The featured patent application which we’ve chosen for today’s column discusses a social networking method which tries to enhance the shared viewing of video content among a group of people in geographically diverse locations. The movie theater interface gives group members the opportunity to communicate thoughts and emotions with others watching the same content. More intelligent computing systems for task management and advertising video games for download are also described within recently filed patent applications.
Microsoft is in the upper echelon of American companies where current patenting operations are concerned, and dozens have been issued to the company in just the past two weeks. Of these, we noticed an intriguing system of providing serious games to business employees which helps them find novel solutions to complex business problems. We also take a closer look at a system designed to protect a user’s private information when accessing online services as well as an intelligent brightness control system for digital screen displays worn near the eye.
Avatar Integrated Shared Media Experience
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140173462
Social networks are an incredibly popular form of Internet technology, and there are various services like Facebook, Twitter and more which cater to millions of active users. Aspects of social networking have been incorporated into many other online services, including multiplayer video gaming and online shopping, as many people enjoy interacting with others through the Internet. In this way, social networking provides a digitally shared experience when friends are not physically present with each other.
However, in many respects current social networking technologies cannot adequately reproduce certain aspects of shared experiences. For example, a user might come across a video clip which they’d like to share with others, but there are no convenient systems for doing so in a timely manner. Even if the user were capable of sharing the video among multiple social network contacts, there are few ways of obtaining any feedback as to what viewers thought of the content.
This patent application was filed by Microsoft with the USPTO in February 2014, and it describes a method for providing shared media experiences that better enables members of a group to suggest videos or films to watch among an entire group. Each member of the group is able to view avatars which suggest the emotional state of other group members. Users can interact with others through these avatars, which can represent a user’s emotional response to a suggested group viewing activity.
This system is designed to digitally replicate the experience of going to a movie theater with a group of friends, providing a shared experience in a virtual world that may not be possible in the physical world due to geographical distance. The virtual world also provides a platform for contacts watching a movie together to comment on the film’s content and discuss their thoughts with others. The system also allows for themed displays or backdrops, giving group members the impression that the group is watching the film in the same destination.
As Claim 1 states, Microsoft is seeking to protect:
“A method for providing a shared media experience in a group comprising two or more users associated with respective computing devices communicatively coupled via a network, the method comprising: establishing membership in the group substantially in real time; executing a nomination process for selecting a media entity of a plurality of media entities to be concurrently rendered by the group, the nomination process comprising: sending, concurrently to the users, data indicative of the plurality of media entities that are selectable by the users; receiving data indicative of nominated media entities and causing the nominated media entities to be indicated concurrently to the users in the group via respective computing devices; and effectuating a process for selecting one of the nominated media entities to be shared by the group; receiving indication of the media entity selected via the nomination process to be shared by the group and rendering a representation of the selected media entity on one of the computing devices; and receiving data for rendering the selected media entity and rendering the received data on a user interface device coupled to said one of the computing devices substantially simultaneously with other computing devices associated with members of the group.”
Other Patent Applications
Microsoft is a great developer of computer software products, but it has made some successful forays into the world of computing hardware, most notably through the Microsoft Xbox video gaming console. Much like we saw in our recent profile of Sony’s patented technologies, we came across a couple of patent applications describing intriguing upgrades to the video gaming experience for players. One patent filing, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140171199, which is titled Achievement Incentives Within a Console-Based Gaming Environment, would protect a system designed to encourage sales of games through the Xbox Live Arcade, which offers users a “try before you buy” option on many games. This system is capable of providing an advertisement to players which suggests that a player may be able to unlock certain achievements based on their game play of the demo. Real world meetings may become easier to schedule through electronic computing devices thanks to the invention expressed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140171129, entitled Location Context, Supplemental Information, and Suggestions for Meeting Locations. This patent application would protect a computer-implemented method provides an interface for scheduling a meeting that communicates the precise location of the meeting to all users, thus avoiding vagaries when deciding upon a meeting location such as an office or a restaurant.
A few other patent applications related to software programs for task management as well as some business services caught our eyes during our most recent search of Microsoft’s recently filed patent applications. A better system for presenting task lists to users through computational task management platforms is discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140173602, which is titled Matching Opportunity to Context. This system is designed to reduce information overload when composing task lists, which may cause unnecessary stress in those assigned to complete tasks, and inform a user that the opportunity to complete a task is present. An invention that allows for the development of software through social networks would be protected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140173555, filed under the title Social-Based Information Recommendation System. This system would analyze information about contacts on a software developer’s social networks to improve marketing opportunities and inform them about improvements they could make to the software to increase use.
Issued Patents of Note
The Microsoft Corporation is a major developer of consumer electronics and personal computers as well as various software services for those devices. The company makes a very strong investment into its research and development activities, and in 2013 Microsoft’s 2,660 patent grants issued by the USPTO was the fifth-highest total of U.S. patent grants issued that year to any company. In the United States, it was the far runner-up to IBM, the world’s most active patenting entity that year. Computing inventions which have recently been patented by Microsoft run the gamut from novel touch screen interfaces to personal identity protection services.
We were intrigued by one patent protecting a technology that attempts to bring digital gaming into business environments. U.S. Patent No. 8753182, which is titled Interactive Learning Using an Advisory Services Network, protects a system designed to improve “serious games,” which are used to teach employees important subject matter in health, law, government or other areas. The interactive learning subsystem included in the network gaming platform is capable of obtaining evidence related to a complex business problem addressed by the serious game to help users find new solutions to existing problems or eliminate redundant solutions.
Inventions related to online profiles and private information are protected by another couple of patents we decided to take a closer look at today. U.S. Patent No. 8756227, issued under the title Extended User Profile, discusses a method of generating user profile information which goes beyond the limited options provided within a single social networking service. This would enable users of a video gaming console, such as Microsoft’s Xbox, to publish their scores online for others to see in addition to their typical social network profile. Efforts to improve digital security for Microsoft customers have resulted in U.S. Patent No. 8752158, entitled Identity Management with High Privacy Features. The method partially implemented by a computer involves a user agent on a user device with code which creates a security boundary that controls the transmission of identification information when trying to access an online service.
We wanted to close up our discussion on Microsoft’s recently issued patents protecting their technological improvements with a quick glance at two patents which protect useful improvements to touch and near-eye displays on computing devices. U.S. Patent No. 8752963, which is titled See-Through Display Brightness Control, protects a method of estimating eye gaze through a near-eye display and adjusting the brightness of the digital display accordingly. This development is intended to protect a wearer’s eyes from the discomfort of excessive display brightness while still enabling the wearer to view digital objects. Finally, we noticed an interesting method for providing touch input feedback to a device user which is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8750938, titled Glow Touch Feedback for Virtual Input Devices. The glow feedback provided by this system is designed to support accurate touch screen inputs by informing users of which key they’re pressing while interacting with a touch screen. This patent faced a non-final rejection in September 2013 after the examiner declared certain claims involving “a computer readable media” as non-statutory subject matter under Section 101 of U.S. patent code.