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Microsoft Patents Entertainment

Bill Gates Patents 'Virtual Entertainment' 141

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the in-my-first-life-i-have-virtual-friends dept.
theodp writes "In the '80s, Bill Gates and his then-girlfriend went on 'Virtual Dates' by viewing the same movie at the same time in different cities and discussing it on their cell phones. On Tuesday, Gates and 15 co-inventors were awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,012,023 for 'Virtual Entertainment', which Microsoft explains: 'The subject innovation provides for systems and methods that supply immersive entertainment, and create a sensation for a user(s) that is similar to having guests (who are in remote locations), to be presented as virtual guests to the user during performance of an event (e.g., a live sporting event, spectator game, television shows, games and the like).' And that silly Audre Lorde said there are no new ideas!"
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Bill Gates Patents 'Virtual Entertainment'

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  • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:40AM (#37325990) Journal
    Virtual Entertainment?

    George Lucas has all sorts of prior "art" on that one.
  • What am I gonna do about my porn now?
  • by markov_chain (202465) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:42AM (#37326022) Homepage

    If you thought Bill G was done, think again!

  • by Manip (656104) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:42AM (#37326024)
    In other, related, news the US [software and methods] patent system is completely fucked up - beyond broken. Everybody knows it but nobody is willing to fix it.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You know, that gives me an idea!
      I'm going to patent a method of creating patents of ideas either absurdly obvious or already existent. That way all these patents will be, in effect, mine.
      The best thing about it? I'll probably get that patent!

    • There are many people who would be willing to fix it. The problem is that it is in the best interests of the people in a position to fix it not to fix it. And the people with the power to remove those people from office are too busy watching mindless TV shows.

    • There are people willing to fix it, but "fix" is a function of your sponsors, be them pharmaceutical companies, tech corporations, or banks.
  • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:43AM (#37326032)

    How is this different from an application of video conferencing?

    • by drakaan (688386)

      It's not. vyew, gotomeeting, or whatever web conferencing software you're familiar with is prior art. Is the USPTO honestly saying that having an avatar in the conference window and it having something to do with an entertainment event makes this novel and some important advancement of the arts?

      Bad patent.

    • by Extremus (1043274)

      How is this different from an application of video conferencing?

      I would say that in the new proposal you can interact with entertaining persons only.

    • Just as there were hundreds of patents for "1. Do something that people have done for a long time 2. But On a Computer!" and "1. Do something that people have done for a long time 2. But On the Internet!", this is a patent for "1. Use the videoconferencing tools you normally use for business. 2. But For a Party!"

      And yes, it's already been done. I was at a party a couple of years ago where one of the people was attending remotely from the Netherlands by videoconference, and then later, when she was in town

    • How is it different from phone sex? Now, that's virtual entertainment!

  • It sounds like what 4chan /tv/ does every Monday night when there's a new House episode on.
    • by vlm (69642)

      It sounds like what 4chan /tv/ does every Monday night when there's a new House episode on.

      We used to do exactly what has been patented, in Second Life, almost one decade ago. Lets say, 2004-2005ish.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:47AM (#37326070) Homepage Journal

    Quick, someone patent Virtual Money so we can virtually pay for our virtual entertainment!

    I'm going to patent "Virtual Housing", "Virtual Transportation", and "Virtual Utilities"...

    Really... This is just fucking stupid. I'm so done. Please someone just blow up the patent office with a few RPGs, or there's going to be no end to this insanity.

    • you actually can have all of that

      Now With Collada Mesh Support!!

      the only thing thats a bit iffy is the virtual utilities but you can have scripted objects that have to be "refilled" at intervals so that can be done. And SL has had Media On A Prim for months now

      Holy Prior Art BOFHman!!

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      I'll patent virtual love, and the billions of left/right-hands of prior art wont stop the patent office from granting me the patent.

      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        I'll patent virtual love, and the billions of left/right-hands of prior art wont stop the patent office from granting me the patent.

        You, sir, have just added a whole new dimension to the expression 'Get a grip on yourself'. Where can I subscribe to your newsletter?

    • by h00manist (800926)

      Please someone just blow up the patent office with a few RPGs, or there's going to be no end to this insanity.

      That's so 1990's. These days, you patent a Document Reviewing Process, sue them, and get an injunction.

  • Trade chat in World of Warcraft during the Superbowl or World Series or World Cup. Heh. (Of course, IRL I doubt I would have *any* of most of the people that troll trade chat in WoW over to my house, at least not without a plan to dispose of their corpses).
  • by Wowsers (1151731) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:50AM (#37326110) Journal
    Bill has so little friends he has to invent virtual ones?
  • it is date of invention idea. If he, like many others, did this in the 80's, then it should be expired.

    However, what amazes me is that with a patent like this, I am waiting for a patent to be approved for breathing.
    • However, what amazes me is that with a patent like this, I am waiting for a patent to be approved for breathing.

      Don't hold your breath! Sorry.

  • "... Step into the cell, and face the wall," the officer commanded. Virtual Reality did so, and the officer moved behind him and roughly released the cuffs.

    "Do NOT turn around until I say so!" the officer barked, and the officer flinched a bit as he thought he saw movement in Virtual Reality's shoulder. The officer's hand flew to the tazzer on his belt, and he glared at Virtual Reality for a long moment.

    Then the officer suddenly back peddled quickly and slammed the cell door shut. The electromagnet
  • They existed in the 80s?
    • They existed in the 80s?

      The first 1G network was deployed in 1979.

  • So .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:56AM (#37326186) Homepage

    He's got a patent on tele-presence? Web cams? Virtual meeting rooms? Avatars?

    I don't get it ... other than the belt, how is this conceptually different from lots of things which have been out there for some time now?

    I mean, really, how far back can you go with a movie that has a hologram sitting at the meeting table? Star Wars maybe? Maybe older?

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      He's got a patent on tele-presence? Web cams? Virtual meeting rooms? Avatars?

      I don't get it ... other than the belt, how is this conceptually different from lots of things which have been out there for some time now?

      I mean, really, how far back can you go with a movie that has a hologram sitting at the meeting table? Star Wars maybe? Maybe older?

      SF goes way, way back. I'm sure that with a little digging we could find a dozen short stories from the 50s or even the 30s.

      I seem to recall that H.G. Wells described people attending plays and concerts remotely in "The Sleeper Awakes" which was originally written in 1899 and then revised in 1910.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      "and there are no new ideas"

      exactly. but this is about telepresenting the _audience_.

      though, that's exactly what's been going on in ug internet radio stations.. that's what keeps the hosts going, that there's feedback - maybe even more and immediate feedback than on traditional radio.

      because you know, for the band that is playing in some garage and is streaming their live gig, it won't feel like they're doing that unless there's some feedback.

      likewise, if the viewers can't participate in any way - then the

    • by guttentag (313541)
      No, Gates has a patent on deluding yourself into believing your friends who can't stand to be in the same room with you are actually your friends. This is a very unique situation that most people have not yet considered but he conquered with his unique visionary genius. And that is why it is patent worthy. If you have actual friends, you won't have to worry about the consequences of infringing his patent. Although FaceBook might claim prior art...
    • by Locutus (9039)
      it is not about the patent being valid it's who has it and how much money they have. Will you fight him in court if he were to sue you for using Skype and having any fun doing it?

      And that sad part is, he probably really believes he invented it too. Hey Bill, I think phone sex pre-dates your movie night dates and I'll leave it to your imagination which was probably more entertaining.

      LoB
  • My brother met his wife on World of Warcraft, and since they lived states apart at the time they had "web dates." They used to have a date night where they'd get on the cells and watch the same movie. They did all sorts of creative things to keep the relationship going, before she finally moved to live with him and they got married. So sorry Gates, couple's who met online have been doing this stuff for ages.
    • by Rizimar (1986164)
      Even before WoW, Everquest, or any other MMORPG like it, there was a Lucasfilm game called Habitat [wikipedia.org] that was released in the late 80's. There wasn't any real objective; it was more or less a graphical chat room where you can do different things like look for treasure, read newspaper, etc. People would go on "virtual dates" in that game. This long promotional video of Habitat [youtube.com] shows just how easy that would be.
    • by pluther (647209)
      Hell, even before there was an online, people were doing this.

      Couple's who have had to spend lengthy times apart have been figuring out how to share experiences like this for a very long time. I did the same thing in the 80s, talking on the phone (landline for me back in those days) after a movie, or even calling during every commercial break during a TV show (which back in those days were automatically synched up for you).

      There were probably people who decided to both go see the same latest Shakespeare p

  • I'd love it if there was a mechanism for Netflix Instant-Watch to sync up the playback of a movie on two different accounts. I watch movies over the phone all the time.
    • by Digicrat (973598)

      There is ... at least if your watching as a "Party" using the silly add-ons in the M$ Xbox Live Netflix application. It also lets you do live voice chat in the same interface, though I've yet to use it myself.

    • by robot256 (1635039)
      Then I guess you better start paying Bill Gates his fair royalties for inventing your idea!
  • From 1993 [youtube.com]
    Or from 1988 [wikipedia.org]
    • This stuff has been thoroughly documented in sci-fi books dating back several decades. I think the USPTO just give a free pass to anyone of particular note anymore without even examining the patent application. This crap is getting as ridiculous as trademarks that just slapping a damn "e" or an "i" in front of common nouns all of a sudden makes you special. I wish someone would invent a cure for lawyers.
  • Since TFA links to the pre-grant publication (with its at-publication-time-not-yet-examined claims) instead of the issued patent, here's the first issued independent claim:

    A computer implemented system comprising: at least one processor that executes the following computer executable components stored on at least one computer readable medium:

    a virtual reality generation component that emulates real-life activities of a guest that is remotely viewing a spectator event that takes place outside of a virtual environment into corresponding virtual activities of a virtual guest representation in the virtual environment; and

    a presentation component that presents the virtual activities of the virtual guest representation to a user that is attending the spectator event as an in-person spectator, the presentation system to facilitate an interaction of the user with the virtual guest representation provided in the virtual environment as the guest is remotely viewing the spectator event.

    • by jfengel (409917)

      I think that "horrible article" could be applied by default to "Hey, did you hear they're applying on patent for [trivial thing]?" articles. I'm no fan of the actual patent system, and it's clearly broken, but the version of the patent system presented on Slashdot is fictional.

      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        t the version of the patent system presented on Slashdot is fictional.

        It goes with our fictional news, fictional politics and fictional economy.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      it's just doing a *golfclap* over the internet.

      nothing more, nothing less. you can use 100 words to say the same thing, but that's it.

  • So this patent was applied for in April 2008 and has just been granted. Disregarding any prior-art that existed before that date, what happens if you or your company "re"-invented this technology between 2008 and now? Do you now have to pay a nice fee to Bill Gates and his friends? That seems a little unfair to me.

    Bonus question: If it took 3 years to grant a patent from 2008, and more and more things are being patented as the years go by, how long will it take to grant a patent filed in 2011? Six years?
  • So my reading of it says that a teleconference is NOT the same. If you have a real image of the person on the other side of the communication, that's not the "virtual reality emulating real-life activities" in the patent.
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:20AM (#37326448) Homepage

    Ideas are not patentable! Patents cover IMPLEMENTATIONS!

    According the article:

    For example, one of the scenarios shown by Microsoft in the patent filing a belt with “electronic and electromagnetic tracking components” for sensing the movements of the user (although the patent doesn’t appear to be limited to that specific approach).

    It sounds like they patented some vague idea of how something might be accomplished. That's not what patents are for.

    this patent application was actually submitted way back in 2006 and only approved after years of back-and-forth with the patent office

    I can see why... since it isn't a patent. Why was it granted at all? So in case I'm just overblowing this, lets look at the patent itself... [uspto.gov]

    ...Moreover, the presentation system 101 can employ a personal computer, a projection unit, a system including 3D goggles and headphones, or a simulator providing visual, audible, and physical stimulation, and the like, to present activities of the virtual guest to the user....

    Aaand how would you do that? Elsewhere in the patent it talks about presenting virtual smells to the user. Right now, there is no technology to do that. This would be like me patenting teleportation by saying there is some sort of matter-to-energy and energy-to-matter device at either end, with some form of communication in the middle. That's the *idea* of teleportation, not a patentable implementation of it.

    Almost every paragraph in the patent says something like this:

    What has been described above includes examples of aspects of the claimed subject matter. It is, of course, not possible to describe every conceivable combination of components or methodologies for purposes of describing the claimed subject matter, but one of ordinary skill in the art may recognize that many further combinations and permutations of the disclosed subject matter are possible.

    So it keeps admitting that they have no idea how to do this, or what combination of devices might achieve it, but they want to have all of them covered. Ordinarily, a patent author tries and make the patent broad enough to cover similar implementations - so that a trivial change can't be used to avoid paying the royalties. But this is ridiculous.

    I think this is perhaps the second most quintissential example of the patent office gone wrong. The best example was when someone patented the tire swing. (Can someone find that? The closest I found was The patent on how to swing [slashdot.org].

    • 2006? People have been doing that in Second Life since its inception in 2003!
    • by kiwix (1810960)

      I think this is perhaps the second most quintissential example of the patent office gone wrong. The best example was when someone patented the tire swing

      My personal favorite is the patent on the wheel. There is an austalian [ipaustralia.gov.au] one and an american [google.com] one.

  • ... my future wife (married in 1976) and I did this. We watched our first opera together -- Don Giovanni on NBC -- she in Wisconsin, I (7 ayears old at the time) in Oklahoma. Of course, it would be a while before we would actually first meet each other. ;~}

    MEK

  • social loser, to me.

    Watching a movie on TV while you talk to a girl watching the same movie on TV is the most pathetic date I can imagine. Only Fucking Bill Gates would think of patenting this -- he should patent ordering pizza, sitting around in his underwear, and squeezing pimples while he's at it.

    • by radtea (464814)

      Watching a movie on TV while you talk to a girl watching the same movie on TV is the most pathetic date I can imagine.

      It depends on the girl. The reality is that some of us are living a long way from our loved ones for a few months or years and this kind of thing is the best we can do for now. An idiot would say, "Well your reasons for being apart must be stupid!" but who cares what an idiot says?

  • The is nothing new. Second Life has been doing this for years. Their system allows media to be set, movies from full length to YouTube can be streamed on a "Prim" in world so that all avatars can sit and watch the movies/videos at the same time as a "virtual date" of sorts and more.

    I could see Linden Labs fighting this is they wanted to. regardless of what people think of Second Life they've already done this for several years.

  • How the hell does a patent so vague and obvious get granted when there is so much prior art? Video conferencing, IRC, VR, muds / MMOs, remote controlled sex devices, outdoor screens, pub quizes, remote TV broadcasts, etc. etc. There is prior art stretching back years.
  • Should have been denied on that basis alone
    • I wish I had been at that meeting. Someone must have been talking about smell-o-vision and thought "hey, let's patent that, and everything else that relates to having a "remote experience".

      Then everyone else at the table, who had been talking in on the same conversation that day said "hey, I was part of this invention!"

      It sounds dumb, but in two years when they settle with Cisco for 120 million and license telepresence everyone in the office will sue who even heard about it that fateful day

  • Of course - we're all just responding to the /. synposis, though even that suggests that it is a patent for a particular set of technologies/methodologies for providing the experience and not the experience in general:

    Windows Live Messenger, for instance, provides a "Watch this Together" link when you past a video or youtube URL to someone, which provides an API for synchronized viewing of the linked content. Obvious idea, sophisticated and non-trivial behind the scenes implementation.

  • sounds like what i can do in PS3 home now.. invite people over to "my place" and we can watch videos on my virtual TV and talk at the same time.
  • in his novel "Against the Fall of Night", talked about this with a whole stadium of spectators. It also was made to seem that each of them thought they were in the best seats in the house and seated next to their friends.

    I think this story was published in the 50s.

  • I seem to remember something like this in some Science Fiction book. I do believe it might have been Fahrenheit 451.

    Prior art!?

  • I have plenty of prior art, starting with Camfrog, where I stream it all from art that I'm working on to design of hydro systems, plus occasionally stream a youtube video for discussion or what not.

    Been pretty fucking obvious, really. The software to get all of this done has been around for quite some time.

  • Microsoft has patented this in 2006 [uspto.gov].

    Second Life has been doing this since March 2005 [secondlife.com].

    There are also other, less known virtual worlds that have been doing it since prior to 2005.
    (I think Active Worlds [activeworlds.com] had this running in the same year or earlier? Needs to be checked.)

    I wonder if this patent would hold against this sort of a prior art?

  • by mfh (56)

    You patent a specific way of doing something, not the general thing itself. Therefore it's not possible for Microsoft to patent the idea of virtual entertainment because that idea already exists. All Microsoft can do is patent the way THEY would do virtual entertainment and then the patent lawyers and judges decide if patent infringing cases apply to the patent or not.

  • Microsoft's holodeck monopoly doesn't look good for the 24th century.
  • Seems like the proposed psychoacousticteledildonics, as described by Ted Nelson in the 70's, would be an example of prior art.
  • Bill Gates was late to the party. There were plenty of virtual dates in the 1970's between computer geeks.

  • dibs...
  • I call BS on this one...

    Anyone who has a television and a phone line will be subject to licensing fees...

    I think this qualifies as Prior Art Big Time!

    My WWII vet dad and I watched the taking of Baghdad from opposite ends of the country via "virtual entertainment"

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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