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Microsoft Cellphones Patents

Microsoft Patents Whacking Your Phone To Silence It 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the until-it-learns-to-fear-you dept.
another random user writes with news of a patent application from Microsoft that details a method for silencing your phone by giving it a whack. "There are a variety of circumstances under which it may be desirable to quickly control a device without having to interact with a traditional user interface. For example, often mobile device users forget to set their mobile devices in a silent or vibrate mode and the device rings or makes sounds at an inopportune moment." And yes, 'whack' is the technical term used in the patent (20120231838): "receiving information indicative of acceleration of the mobile communications device; determining correlation between the information indicative of acceleration of the mobile communications device and exemplar whack event data; and based at least on the correlation, controlling an audio signal of the mobile communications device." This method is not recommended for controlling the audio output of animals or children.
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Microsoft Patents Whacking Your Phone To Silence It

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 16, 2012 @02:31AM (#41350393)

    goes only to show how broken the Patent system is.

    • by arbiter1 (1204146)
      Yea Apple has proven that with massively board patents and stuff that is clear prior art.
    • by osu-neko (2604)
      I dunno... I'm normally skeptical of patents, but if they've come up with a good method of distinguishing a genuine, intentional "whack" from a bit of jostling or other causes of sudden acceleration, which doesn't seem at all obvious how to do, then that strikes me as something that might genuinely be patentable.
      • by bmo (77928) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @04:09AM (#41350677)

        intentional "whack" from a bit of jostling or other causes of sudden acceleration, which doesn't seem at all obvious how to do,

        It's only a magnitude. Random jostling is not the same as a good solid whack, which easily can exceed 5Gs. People do not typically experience 5G engvironments unless they are in a jet fighter or an automobile accident. Measure with a phone's built-in accelerometer any 5G thwack = intentional whack.

        Bam. Done.

        It's an obvious application. It's so obvious that you can buy tags to attach to shipped items that measure whacks, and if it exceeds the whack standard of the tag, then the shipper is at fault for damage.

        http://www.drypak.com/shippingHandlingIndicators.html [drypak.com]

        This is just using already-built-in accelerometers and doing the exact same thing. Don't forget the standard is supposed to be "nonobvious to someone skilled in the art" and not "nonobvious to a moron."

        --
        BMO

        • Also you can go the data crunch way and just train a device to recognize your whacks with a support vector network.

      • by Plunky (929104) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @04:14AM (#41350699)

        it seems to me (with no time at all spent thinking about it, and I am scarcely skilled in the art) that it is when a device is being alarming that a whack is most significant.. just like a naughty child who knows they are doing wrong, when the 'whack' is applied then they will shut up. If you 'whacked' a child who was just playing peacefully they would justifiably object.. and please, substitute your choice of censure, if 'whacking' a child is distasteful to you.

        So, the whack detection becomes more accurate when the current state of the device is accounted for.

        • Very acute.

          Some might even argue that every sharp acceleration while in an alarm state could be classified as a whack. Since the operator is in the state of directly moving the device he is aware of the alarm.

          • by ryanov (193048)

            No, not really. It could be in a car or in your pocket or what have you.

            • In those positions the only way for the device to record accelerations that represent a "whack" is for the car to crash or the wearer to crash. In which case you bet you want the device to auto pick up and give you a chance to an early response rescue. ;-)

    • USPTO is a joke (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @03:17AM (#41350535)
      > goes only to show how broken the Patent system is.


      Patents are supposed to be novel, useful and not obvious. This patent seems obvious. According to a law lecturer, the mere fact the USPTO has granted a patent doesn't mean you have a valid patent: It also has to be tested in the courts. Only if it is upheld does this mean you have a valid patent.

      The problem is this system is easily exploited. A USPTO examiner is supposed to eliminate patents which fail the above tests, but you can overwhelm a USPTO examiner just by giving them a lot of documentation. I have seen this done. It's easier for the examiner just to grant it and let the courts figure it out. The problem is as we saw in the Apple v Samsung case the jury assumes just because the USPTO has granted the patents they *are* valid. It's also expensive: It costs about $2M to attack or defend a patent and takes a lot of employee time when they could be working instead. In the US even if you successfully defend a patent attack you usually don't get your legal fees reimbursed, so that $2M is gone forever. This will send a smaller businesses broke. Is that really good for innovation?

      Microsoft's patent here seems obvious and should have never been granted. The same goes for the intuitive tablet / smart phone operations which Apple patented: Give one of these devices to anyone who hasn't used one before and they quickly figure out which gestures work. The "intutive" nature of this means it is by definition obvious.

      The US patent system... now forced down the world's throat thanks to aggressive lobbying of foreign governments by US diplomats bringing shiny beads and mirrors ... means it has been inflicted upon the world, and is hampering innovation everywhere. Even Google has spoken against it, but big companies are forced into a position where they must spent millions on stupid patents (which shouldn't hold up in court) just to get into a better bargaining positions against the patent trolls and Apples of the world.

      But make no mistake: The USPTO is the patent troll's friend. Not just due to their lazy examinations, but because they have also increased fee to discourage people from asking for bogus patents to be re-examined. That was the reason they gave when they did this: they are trying to make less work for themselves caused by their own sloppiness in the first place!

      The only solution: Tell your congressman and senator to stop this madness now and that there will be consequences at the ballot box if they don't. A tall ask, but they are the only people with the power to change it.
      • by DaveGod (703167)

        > It's also expensive: It costs about $2M to attack or defend a patent and takes a lot of employee time when they could be working instead. In the US even if you successfully defend a patent attack you usually don't get your legal fees reimbursed, so that $2M is gone forever. This will send a smaller businesses broke.

        As you're alluding to here but not directly spelling out, in business terms anyway, is how the patent affects risk. If you are in the planning stages of a new product and find even a highly

    • by isorox (205688)

      goes only to show how broken the Patent system is.

      I find giving things a whack often fixes them

    • by Fjandr (66656)

      I'm normally pretty anti-MS and anti-patent, but this isn't actually a bad idea if they've developed a method to do this safely. While there is obviously the analogy to silencing alarm clocks by hitting them or throwing them, it's generally not advisable and will usually void your warranty. There is a clock which was designed specifically to be silenced by throwing it against a wall, and it would not surprise me to see that patented.

      Now, if it's the entire concept of "hitting the phone to silence it," I wou

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Its just another gesture really. Gesture interfaces are nothing new, even for silencing phones [androidzoom.com].

        It's not just phones either. My CASIO watch has an arm gesture to turn the backlight on, etc.

      • The idea is not bad, but the patent most certainly is. Flip to silence, shake to silence, press any key to silence, hit the volume rocker to silence, etc., there are a myriad of real world implementations that have been around for probably about a decade already. The accelerometer based methods popped up within days after sale of the first handsets to have those sensors.

        • by Nursie (632944)

          You could get alarm clocks that you switched off by throwing or whacking back in the 80s. Not new.

          • Not new but unfortunately it deals with tech that is sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from magic by an uneducated observer. Or in this case the tech involved could be perceived as non obvious by a patent judge.

    • by Altanar (56809)
      No, Patent D618677 [google.com] shows how broken the patent system is.
    • This is almost the least stupid software patent I've ever seen. I mean, all great ideas look obvious in retrospect, but I can't tell you how many times I've been embarrassed that I forgot to silence my phone and had to fumble with it to try to silence it without removing it from my pocket. If could just give my thigh a light slap and silence it mid-ring, that'd be awesome.

      Still, I'm not sure I like the idea of a patent protecting something like this, even if it hasn't' been done before and would be useful

      • by Cochonou (576531)
        It has been done to death for snoozing alarm clocks. I fail to see what is new in this idea. Has this really never been implemented in mobile phones ?
    • goes only to show how broken the Patent system is.

      Not really. I think it shows that some things are obvious _after_ someone shows them. Is any phone implementing it already? If it's as obvious as you think, why not?

      • by uncqual (836337)
        Perhaps for warranty reasons? Manufacturers may not have been comfortable telling people to "whack your phone to silence it". Some percentage of people would hit it too hard and break it (or, at least claim that's how the screen broke - "I was just following directions from the manual on how to silence the phone and the glass cracked - so it's normal usage and the product is obviously defective, send me a new one.").
    • by inKubus (199753)

      Microsoft's whacking off displays patent system mental masturbation. Film at 11.

  • Geeze.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @02:32AM (#41350399)
    Talk about an obvious use for a g-force sensor...what's next? Somebody patenting using a screwdriver for a chisel or to open paint cans?
    • Re:Geeze.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @02:58AM (#41350487)

      If it's so obvious, why has nobody yet done it with more than 5 years of smartphones on the market.

      I actually like this idea. If my phone is in my pants and i'm in a movie theater and I forgot to silence it.. just whack my pocket and it stops ringing, rather than fumbling in my pocket to get it out, and find the buttons.

      • by cps42 (102752)

        If it's so obvious, why has nobody yet done it with more than 5 years of smartphones on the market.

        My Samsung G2 supports muting the ring by turning the phone over. Using the accelerometer isn't unique. Whacking it is pretty clever, though.

        • Clever? Really?
          When I was a kid, I had an alarm clock in the shape of a baseball. To turn the alarm off, you'd chuck the ball against a wall. The impact silenced the alarm.
            Keep in mind, this was about 30 years ago.

          How is this clever again?

      • If it's so obvious, why has nobody yet done it with more than 5 years of smartphones on the market.

        They sort of have. Not by looking for a whack, butby other accelleromete based gestures. For example, I can silence an incoming call by turning my phone face-down.

      • Re:Geeze.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @03:42AM (#41350597)

        If it's so obvious, why has nobody yet done it with more than 5 years of smartphones on the market.

        Actually, my Nexus S (which is already a two year old model I think) has been doing this ever since I can remember.

        In fact, that's probably why Microsoft used the word "whack", and not "shake" or "move". If they had used any of those other words, a simple bing search [bing.com] (yes, even a bing search I tell you) would have uncovered multiple instances of prior art on both Android and on the iPhone.

        No doubt, they'll try to use this little play on words in their commercials to say how unique the feature is, and how they're the only one who have it because they patented the idea.

      • I consider accelerometer events (drop, whack, hit, turn, rotate, flip, shake, bounce, etc) analogous to keyboard shortcuts. Now excuse me while I patent using Alt+B to launch my browser, I mean I haven't seen any computers yet that do it, so it CAN'T be obvious, thus it must be a valid patent!
      • If it's so obvious, why has nobody yet done it with more than 5 years of smartphones on the market.

        Smartphones have been around for more than 15 years.

        And, yes, there have been plenty of phones that have done this for years, including Nokias and Android phones.

      • My HTC Android works this way. it has a "shake off" function when it rings or the alarm goes off, and just whacking it activates that.

    • That gives me a patent idea:

      A patent on using a smart phone device as a chisel to open pain cans. After the phone is inserted into the crack, the vibrator would turn on rhythmically and attempt to loosen the lid.

      I am sure this idea is novel, and is about as obvious as the patent mentioned in the summary.

    • Re:Geeze.. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Mr0bvious (968303) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @03:32AM (#41350567)

      Much better title - Microsoft patents whacking off..

      I dunno, but I think it deserves the name Whack Off...

  • Groan! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ian.Waring (591380) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @02:34AM (#41350409) Homepage
    Prior art city: hitting an alarm clock. If Americans are so intelligent, why have such an outrageously dumb patent system? It's meandering stories for profit rather than any reward for innovation these days...
    • Re:Groan! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 16, 2012 @02:43AM (#41350443)
      One doesn't "hit an alrm clock". One presses a button that is wide and shallow enough that a blow from one's hand will activate it. This patent suggests that the phone's internal accelerometer will detect short, sharp motions and communicate them to the ringer. While I don't think patenting such small details is healthy, this invention isn't so comparable to an alarm clock.
      • Re:Groan! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by guttentag (313541) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @04:02AM (#41350655) Journal

        One doesn't "hit an alrm clock". One presses a button that is wide and shallow enough that a blow from one's hand will activate it.

        In theory one presses a wide button. In practice millions of people hit their alarm clocks. This creates the pretense that the device may be silenced in a non-destructive manner, while ensuring continued regular demand for new alarm clocks. It's really quite brilliant on Microsoft's part. By encouraging this model of behavior they can inflate their sales figures and retention percentages ("9 out of 10 Windows Phone owners buy another Windows Phone each year").

      • by vux984 (928602)

        You are describing -your- alarm clock.

        There are any number of alarm clocks that do in fact just let you "whack" them anywhere.

        Hell, there's even ones designed to be thrown...

        http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20080429/throw-alarm-clock/ [coolest-gadgets.com]

        • by danomac (1032160)

          Damn. The thing that sucks about throwing that alarm... when it goes off again you have to get up to silence it. Maybe I should patent a throwable boomerang clock.

      • by c (8461)

        > One doesn't "hit an alrm clock". One presses a button that is wide and shallow
        > enough that a blow from one's hand will activate it.

        That's one approach. On the other hand, companies have been putting accelerometers into alarm [amazon.com] clocks [amazon.com] for a while now.

        Apparently, this is one of those "... in a phone" patents.

    • by sodul (833177)

      My alarm clock actually has no Snooze button but has Slap! To snooze [philips.com].

      The Microsoft patent is 'interesting' but I do not really find it practical unless you have to start switching modes all day long: when running where the simple fact that you are running would make it misbehave, probably similar on my bike (SF streets are badly maintained), or worse on the train (I had to disable 'shake to skip' on my iPhone, CalTrain got to be the worse train tracks in the western world).

      Something more useful would be to

    • Re:Groan! (Score:4, Funny)

      by snikulin (889460) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @02:51AM (#41350465)

      People for the Ethical Treatment of Smartphone

    • by guttentag (313541)
      The brilliance of our patent system is that it can occasionally be used to entrap mega-corporations when they do stupid things (whether we are smart enough to utilize it in that way is another matter). In this case, call MSFT's bluff: Declare Stephen Elop's tenure at Nokia to be prior art. Either MSFT acknowledges the prior art by Nokia and abandons this claim, or it claims ownership of said prior art by acknowledging that it sent Elop there to whack the phone company and silence it.
    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      I have never had a hit to disarm alarm clock

      3 slide switch models and a specific button to press model in my 33 years I have never whacked an alarm clock, as in my entire life they have not operated that way

      and if your country is so innovative why dont we hear about your invaluable inventions every day?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    My Nokia 6600 fold already had this feature for years. You just tap it twice and it silences alarms and calls. And shows the current time on the front panel. Where's the actually new stuff in this patent because everything else seems like an obvious extension to that?

    • by SpzToid (869795)

      Microsoft is using the word 'whack' in their patent application. That part is unique.
      What is a whack really? Could be The Killer feature in Windows Phone 8.

  • by Calydor (739835) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @02:53AM (#41350471)

    The mafia has been whacking people for decades to silence them.

  • As long as they don't Patent dropping annoying phones in a glass of water, I think there might be some prior art on that one.
  • I wonder if engineers at companies like Microsoft have informal competitions to see who can get the most wacky patent accepted.

  • So them rats in the F.B.I. thought they had us when they taped us about wackin; someone to silence him. Be wes got our sources and wes pay good dough for our snitches inside the F.B.I. So now wes got this cool patent on wackin to silence, and whats our lawyers call "Plausible Deniability". Suck it Feds, we're Microsoft, yous can't touch us!
  • by Osgeld (1900440)

    my windows 5 phone just has a easy to find physical button that requires nothing more than a press of the thumb

    • by isorox (205688)

      my windows 5 phone just has a easy to find physical button that requires nothing more than a press of the thumb

      Same with my iphone and ring finger.

  • they patent a sensor that responds to a whack? Fine. They patent the idea of whacking the phone? Not fine. Patents are supposed to cover IMPLEMENTATIONS, not ideas.
    • by isorox (205688)

      they patent a sensor that responds to a whack? Fine.
      They patent the idea of whacking the phone? Not fine. Patents are supposed to cover IMPLEMENTATIONS, not ideas.

      I've silenced a phone before by whacking it.

      The novel part is having it carry on working after the whack.

    • What is the running patent life of an idea these days? Used to be until you got off your ass and built it and others imitated.
  • This is an elegant use for an accelerometer. Obvious? Now it is after they said it. But imagine being able to punch your pocket to shut your phone up. Really the guy that came up with this needs more than the $1 he will get from Microshaft for the patent.
  • by Altanar (56809)
    Fun fact: Windows Phones already have a feature where if the phone is ringing and you pick it up (say, to see who's calling) and put it back down, the phone recognizes this and turns down the volume of the ringing for that call. Found that out by accident. Heh.
  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @05:08AM (#41350795)
    Beating an electronic device to death makes perfect sense to users of ME and Vista. This falls under a common sense patent. This must be a defensive patent before the new OS comes out given their history of every other release sucking. I'm still waiting for them to announce the "AX Back Up System". The hard drive backs up before you take an ax to it!
  • HTC lets you do this already by flipping your phone. Both are just a motion sensor output value linked to operating state.

  • I'm going to patent kicking the phone to make the vibrator thingy cause the phone to smack the other persons head hard.

  • by drphil (320469) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @07:37AM (#41351297)

    ... is amazing.
    "Microsoft's patent here seems obvious..."
    Really? well, I don't know about the inner workings of all cell phones, but I've yet seen a model that I can silence with a single instant button touch or one that uses an accelerometer to transmit a single clear command to the phone. -- Others may come up with examples which is great. Third parties can now (or soon) file with the USPTO to put prior art not considered by the examiner into the official record. This is a very recent change and I don't recall the details. It may be active just for business patents right now, but eventually all patent apps will be included and this one likely won't be examined before that rule is opened to all patents. So prep your arguments now! In any case the mere existence of accelerometers probably would not constitute obviousness which seems to be the main point being made by most.

    "...and should have never been granted"
    Well, it hasn't. This is only an application published 18 months after filing. With the current backlog in the USPTO, it won't be examined for another 2 years.

    • by epp_b (944299)
      It doesn't matter if it's not obvious to you. It matters whether it's obvious to a "practitioner skilled in the art" ... which it is.

      well, I don't know about the inner workings of all cell phones,

      Well, then let me help you out...

      Phones are essentially small computers. A computer is an electronic device that can accept one or several forms of user input and manipulate it, according to instructions and configurations, into a desired output. On a phone, that user input consists of buttons, other physical

    • Finally someone points out it is only an application. Unfortunately the "patent experts" here on slashdot will declare it doesn't matter because they'll grant it anyway.

  • There is massive prior art in the public domain on this one so the patent is not valid. People have been whacking their devices, including phones, for thousands of years. One of the complaints about modern phones is they are too fragile to whack. Sure, MS can make one more rugged to take a whack and stop talking but that's not a non-obvious patentable idea. That's just a minor incremental improvement.

    Patent rejected.

  • Even Moses whacked his tablets, much to his gods annoyance, since he just got his hands cleaned of the pot clay...
  • I'm pretty sure my father can claim prior use. when i was a kid that was his default method of shutting us kids up.
  • My mother claims prior art!

  • As far as I'm concerned, Microsoft invented whacking hardware! Pretty much every time I've wanted to whack some hardware, it's been running one of their products! I think they should get this one!
  • We've all heard of planned obsolesence...this business of activly enlisting users participation in the destruction of their expensive device represents a novel concept deserving of a business methods patent.

    Quite clever indeed..

    "warranty void if whacked"

    "whack to unlock"

  • This headline could have been so much better with just a tiny rearranging of words:

    Microsoft Patents Silencing Your Phone By Whacking It

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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