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Microsoft Crime Patents Idle

Microsoft Patents Bad Neighborhood Detection 317

PolygamousRanchKid writes with these lines culled from InformationWeek: "With the grant of their US Patent #8090532 Microsoft may be attempting to corner the market on GPS systems for use by pedestrians, or they may have opened a fertile ground for discrimination lawsuits. ... Described as a patent on pedestrian route production, the patent describes a two-way system of building navigation devices targeted at people who are not in vehicles, but still require the use of such a device to most efficiently route to their destination. ... For example, the user inputs their destination and any constraints or requirements they might have, such as a wheelchair accessible route, types of terrain they are willing to cross, the option of public transportation, and a way point such as the nearest Starbucks on the route. Any previously configured preferences are also considered, such as avoiding neighborhoods that exceed a certain threshold of violent crime statistics (hence the description of this as the 'avoid bad neighborhoods' patent), fastest route, most scenic, etc." Having lived in some high-crime neighborhoods, the actual feature (versus the patent) sounds like a great idea to me.
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Microsoft Patents Bad Neighborhood Detection

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  • Re:Very subjective (Score:5, Informative)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @11:34AM (#38629872) Homepage Journal
    RTFS: "neighborhoods that exceed a certain threshold of violent crime statistics."
  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @11:37AM (#38629902) Homepage Journal
    Or a man of the night. Or several men of the night who are all too happy to see you.

    Also, they're patenting the idea of the algorithm "that say don't go this way... etc." Not an actual algorithm. No methods were harmed during the making of this filing. I would call that worse. Here's the patent [uspto.gov] so you can wince for yourself.
  • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @11:39AM (#38629936) Journal

    Google maps already has a feature that allows you to avoid tolls or "by foot" versions.

    Add info from stuff like this:
    http://www.nwgangs.com/gang-territory-maps.html [nwgangs.com]
    http://maps.google.com/maps/user?uid=200807321660978094818&hl=en&gl=us&ptab=2 [google.com]
    And so where's the innovation?

    I personally think patents are costing society more than the benefit they provide. Sure a few patents might be worthwhile, but when most of them are crap, what's the point? It's as stupid as throwing money at a game which provides worse odds than most casinos. A few wins don't make up for all the losses.

    You want to reward and encourage _people_ for innovating? Award Prizes for Innovation instead. It's always easier to see if something was innovative and valid from hindsight than from an overworked patent examiner's POV. You could have different areas and different categories, some chosen by "randomly selected citizens", and some chosen by "experts in the field". A bit like the Hugo and Nebula awards. That way you get some balance.

  • by Rob Riggs (6418) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:05PM (#38630152) Homepage Journal
    Good luck making that work. The government crime data that this feature will be using is usually out of date and highly massaged by police departments and officials with a stake in the crime rates. See, for example this NY Times article [nytimes.com].
  • by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:23PM (#38630318)

    What we have is a legal requirement to not choose who we buy our goods from based on race or minority status of the owner/employees.

    That's not true, you're allowed to buy your goods from whoever you choose, for any reason you choose. That is freedom of association.

  • by ExploHD (888637) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @02:24PM (#38631152)
    Samantha Wright is right; they don't put up an algorithm that you could jot down, but instead describe having the trip computer avoid areas that you don't want to go or that you're not allowed to enter. It even ends with:

    It is, of course, not possible to describe every conceivable combination of components or methodologies for purposes of describing the subject specification, but one of ordinary skill in the art can recognize that many further combinations and permutations of the subject specification are possible. Accordingly, the subject specification is intended to embrace all such alterations, modifications and variations that fall within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.

    That little section there takes the rest of the cake with them.

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