Microsoft invents cloud-based driver warning systems, hover-based gaming controls

By Steve Brachmann
September 9, 2015

"Microsoft Booth at the Consumer Electronics Show 2009" by Ben Franske. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

“Microsoft Booth at the Consumer Electronics Show 2009” by Ben Franske. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) of Redmond, WA, is involved with the development of a wide range of consumer and business products in information technologies, from computing hardware to operating system (OS) software and more. The company has made more of a foray into cloud computing and apps with its Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based software services. Adoption of Microsoft Office 365 has exploded 300 percent over the past year and it has surpassed traffic for email and productivity apps developed by rival tech company Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) This represents a major shift in operations since allowing others in the tech space to control development of the computing cloud despite the company’s focus on software. Microsoft’s app products also include the recently released Snip, a stand-alone program that makes it easy to take screenshots and edit them with drawings or recorded voice clips.

In the mobile device world, photos leaking from Microsoft show a pair of Lumia smartphone devices which it’s expected the company will announce as flagship mobile products at a corporate event in October. Mobile is another area where Microsoft is looking to take on Google by releasing its Cortana personal assistant on the Android platform which could be valuable to Microsoft if its search function draws users from Google’s product. Elsewhere, Microsoft has been getting involved in the development of artificial intelligence (AI), a sector of technology that has spooked some big names in science and tech. The company is hoping to leverage its R&D in field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to support breakthroughs in deep learning neural networks of unprecedented size.

Microsoft 3 month clusterMicrosoft is often found soaring high atop the intellectual property world in terms of the patents it’s issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In 2014, the company was 5th overall in the world for U.S. patent grants with 2,983 patents that year, a 6 percent increase from the previous year’s totals. In the three months leading up to this writing, Microsoft has earned 597 U.S. patents, a slow quarterly pace compared to last year but still one that would likely put the company in the top 10 most innovative organizations this year. As we can tell from the text cluster we have thanks to Innography’s patent portfolio analysis tools, most recent Microsoft patents have been issued in fields like user interfaces and computing devices, with some R&D specifically targeting mobile computing devices.

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Microsoft’s Issued Patents: From Gaming Achievements in the Offline World to Stress Detecting Devices

gaze detectionMicrosoft seems to continue to want to stay hot on the trail of Google with the issue of U.S. Patent No. 9110504, titled Gaze Direction in a See-Through, Near-Eye, Mixed Reality Display. The method for determining gaze protected here involves determining boundaries of a three-dimensional (3D) gaze detection coordinate system for each eye based on the position of eye glint, positions on the near-eye display for of illuminators that generate glint and a position of at least one sensor for capturing reflected eye data, checking periodically the reflected eye data for any change along an axis of the gaze detection coordinate system, triggering redetermination of the coordinate system boundaries in response to an axis change, determining a gaze vector for each eye from the reflected eye data, determining a point of gaze from the gaze vector in a 3D user field of view in the near-eye mixed reality display device and identifying any object in the 3D user field of view at a point of a user’s gaze. The technology, likely for the Microsoft HoloLens, is better capable at following a user’s shifting gaze without head movement.

Microsoft and its Xbox hold a very strong position in the video gaming world and we we were intrigued by the gaming technology outlined within U.S. Patent No. 9098859, titled Bringing Achievements to an Offline World. This patent protects computer-readable storage devices containing memory that is executed to perform storing definitions for a plurality of online gaming achievements and offline participation achievements, receiving an indication of a user at a particular location from that user’s mobile device, identifying participation of a user in an offline activity corresponding with an offline achievement, awarding the offline achievement for participation in the offline activity and storing earned achievement points on an achievement system. This innovation seeks to leverage video gamer interest in increasing his or her Xbox achievement score by providing a way by which real world sales or marketing events could add points to that score.

Both automotive tech and cloud computing have been popular areas of R&D focus and we saw one technology merging the two in Microsoft’s U.S. Patent No. 9092984, titled Enriching Driving Experience with Cloud Assistance. The method protected here involves receiving wireless communication of a vehicle’s trajectory sent from a wireless device associated with a vehicle, hashing a mobile device identifier to determine a vehicle prediction component corresponding to the device, determining a grid server from the detected information, determining that a vehicle is at risk of a collision and sending alert-related data to the vehicle in response. This innovation was pursued to address the shortcomings in vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) or vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, for which constructing the infrastructure has been expensive.

mood-actuated deviceA technology for helping a user quantify levels of stress which they’re currently experiencing is at the center of U.S. Patent No. 9104231, issued under the title Mood-Actuating Device. The mood-actuated device protected here includes a microcontroller that receives signals corresponding to a user’s emotional state and a flexible material composed of fabric and interlaced wires controlled by the controller to change to a shape based on the emotional state of a user; the flexible material takes a flat shape when a user is relaxed and a crumpled shape when stressed. This device is intended to give those people who might be worried about the effects of stress in their body a way to visualize actual stress being experienced by the body, which can be different than what a person perceives as stress.

sketch beautificationComputing technologies are now able to take on a bit of artistic license as can be seen within U.S. Patent No. 9098191, titled Sketch Beautification and Completion of Partial Structured-Drawings. The method for assisting a user in producing a drawing protected here involves receiving ink strokes in response to the creation of an original drawing, recognizing components within the original drawing, recognizing constraints associated with the recognized components to yield a recognized drawing, storing components and constraints in a data store, revising an aspect of the drawing in accordance with constraints to produce a beautified drawing, identifying a transformation of drawing objects, identifying predominant transformations in the transformation information corresponding to a prominent recurring pattern in the beautified drawing, adding an additional component to the beautified drawing based on the pattern and providing an output drawing based on the beautified drawing. This technology is designed to beautify a finished drawing or take an unfinished drawing and create a finished, beautified version of it.

Anyone who enjoys the thought of constantly being connected to social media may want to check out the invention protected by U.S. Patent No. 9100667, which is titled Life Streaming. It protects a method for transmitting data by acquiring a first portion of a life recording as it’s being recorded on a life recorder, generating context information including a location associated with the recording, identifying a first person from the recording using a vocal or facial recognition technique, detecting a predetermined push condition that triggers the transmission of data from the life recorder to a target device and automatically transmitting the live recording as a live feed when a push condition is detected. The technology was designed to enable users to send multimedia to friends and family on social networks without having to manually capture and transmit images or video of the moment.

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Patent Applications of Note: Hover-Based Gaming Controls and Flexible Editing of Online Courses

optical sensorA few patent applications filed in recent months by Microsoft showcase intriguing developments in the field of hover and gesture-based commands. The better detection of the proximity of a user’s finger to a touchscreen before it actually touches is featured within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150205445, entitled Global and Local Light Detection in Optical Sensor Systems. It would protect a method of generating a global lighting value that describes a global lighting level for a plurality of optical sensors based on a plurality of light inputs received by the sensors, generating an illumination map describing local light conditions for individual sensors and performing object detection using an image captured by the plurality of optical sensors. This innovation is intended to overcome situations where local light conditions may make it more difficult for optical sensors to note the presence of a user’s finger. Hover-based controls for gaming devices are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150231491, titled Advanced Game Mechanics on Hover-Sensitive Devices. The method disclosed here involves a hover point for an object located in a hover space produced by an apparatus displaying output of a video game, creating an association between a virtual joystick and the hover point to process inputs from the hover space, detecting a hover action performed by the object, translating the hover action into a virtual joystick input and controlling the video game based on the input. This invention is intended to overcome shortcomings in many types of video game genres, including racing, boxing or first person combat, in which an extraordinary number of button pushes are required to engage with all aspects of a game.

wearable computerThe mixed reality glasses device described in the previous section is not the only wearable technology being developed by Microsoft to judge by U.S. Patent Application No. 20150235529, entitled Wearable Computer Having a Skin-Stimulating Interface. This patent application would protect a system comprising a mobile device that determines whether an event has occurred and generate a notification signal indicating occurrence of an event; the system also includes a stimulus circuit in contact with a user’s skin that provides electrical stimuli to the skin in response to a notification signal. This technology provides an improved tactile feedback to users of mobile device notifications when they may not otherwise feel a vibrating smartphone.

More driving innovations from Microsoft are on display within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150211874, which is titled Dynamic Destination Navigation System. The system for improved navigation to dynamic destinations claimed here includes a processing unit and a system memory containing code executable by the processor to generate a caravan comprising a leader and multiple followers, determining that a former follower is no longer following, removing the former follower from the caravan and notifying a member of the caravan that the former follower has left the caravan. This invention is intended to prevent members of a group traveling in a caravan on a road trip from getting separated from the group and lost. Another kind of navigational technology involving robotics is at the center of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150217455, titled Controlling a Robot in the Presence of a Moving Object. This would protect a method for controlling a robot by capturing a plurality of frames from a 3D camera system, analyzing a frame to identify a connected object, comparing that frame to a previous frame to identify a moving connected object (MCO), determining that an MCO is in the frame and instructing the robot to take action in response. This innovation is intended to reduce the hazard that robots pose to humans and other objects that enter their workspace.

Those who have an interest in keeping track of their nutritional intake when eating at restaurants, where it may be difficult to determine exact ingredients as well as the amount of each, may enjoy the invention found in U.S. Patent Application No. 20150228062, which is titled Restaurant-Specific Food Logging from Images. It claims a computer-implemented process for evaluating images of meals by processing actions for receiving a meal image of one or more meal items, receiving information indicating the source of a meal and recognizing the meal using a machine-learned meal model constrained by the meal’s source. By incorporating information from a restaurant about meals, this system is capable of providing nutritional information from images of meals where certain ingredients might be covered and occluded from view.

online coursesFinally, we were interested in taking a look at the educational innovation that would be protected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20150206446, titled Authoring, Sharing, and Consumption of Online Courses. It discloses a system for publishing an augmented presentation document with a memory storing instructions which are executed to receive an augmented presentation document including slides and slide-associated objects, extract objects from an augmented presentation document, store those objects by object type, receive a request to present an augmented presentation document, receive the stored objects in response to the request and cause presentation of the document so that the objects are presented in synchronization. This innovation is intended to improve flexibility in authoring online courses without requiring the editing of video and other multimedia when changes are to be made to a recorded lecture.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

Steve Brachmann

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There are currently 1 Comment comments.

  1. Night Writer September 10, 2015 9:38 am

    These posts of yours Steve set a standard for how technology should be reported. Really a great job.

    (Your posts also bring to my mind what you could report without patent disclosures. Microsoft used to try to keep everything a secret and used to use draconian employment contracts. I don’t see why they would not return to those practices without patents.)