Disclosures

<outdated a lot but has valid points from historical perspective>

Abstract

The "Multi-user Collaboration with Presence Awareness" portfolio, which includes eight issued US patents (9,579,572 8,060,887 8,627,211 8,702,505 7,950,046 7,765,266 7,765,261 10,180,765) and US continuation application (16/240,258), is a potential asset for companies engaged in:

  • Web hosting of own or others websites (www.enflock.com to bring Presence Awareness and collaboration between their visitors and between visitors and hosts)
  • Internet meetings for business and entertainment
  • Instant Messaging and Chat
  • Social Portals
  • Online gaming/gambling
  • E-Commerce
  • Web publishing
  • Law Enforcement

With the advent of high-speed Internet connectivity for mobile and fixed users, online collaboration between them has started gaining prominence. Users share their views and opinions in collaborative sessions on web sites and web portals, in order to increase co-ordination and productivity.

The portfolio covers technology related to an online collaboration tool, which provides real-time updates of content and user comments to all the users in a web conference.

The portfolio provides simultaneous drawing & typing for all participants, they are all "presenters" at the same time. In prior art there is only one presenter at the time, all others are just viewers. We achieve this synchronizing all users by sending them back their own messages, in addition to messages from others, in timely sequence.

The portfolio describes the use a light-weight synchronization technique which allows all users to be presenters at the same time. This creates true Presence Awareness, not available from other vendors: Microsoft also has synchronization technique in its LiveMeeting, Adobe has it for its Acrobat Connect, but they are too heavy to allow multiple presenters. They cannot beat Internet latency, which is 50 to 200 milliseconds, and it is accumulating exponentially with number of users. We patented the most light-weight but non-intuitive technique. All those competitors would benefit from implementing it in their products.

The portfolio covers patents and patent applications which can be implemented on existing web sites and collaborative platforms. Cursor movements on a users computer can be tracked and made visible to others website visitors, leading to presence awareness, not available anywhere now. Game piece movements can also be captured, leading to an increased degree of user involvement and satisfaction while experiencing online gaming or gambling. Further, the technology allows for interception of multi-user communication by tagging specific users as silent participants, and thus could be an invaluable asset for law enforcement.

With such features, this technology will provide a major upgrade to online collaboration platforms such as web hosting, Internet conferencing, instant messaging and online gaming through improved presence aware techniques. The integration of this technology in a web site or a discussion portal would ensure that users never experience loneliness, a common complaint among modern web users. Organizations that implement this technology in their products can offer increased interactivity amongst its users and free-flowing collaboration, in turn helping the organization achieve higher gains in productivity.

Moreover, in a market that is rapidly growing and where the demand for online collaboration is forever increasing (revenue for web conferencing is expected to reach US $5 Billion by 2015, and 1.3 billion users are forecasted to be using mobile instant messaging by 2016), the technology provides a unique solution in which multiple users can collaborate instantaneously all at the same time, creating perception of live presence. Each user can see not only someone's message, but watch how it is created, and feel in what state of the mood creator is.

Competition for clients is fierce between major players in instant messaging and social websites, because legacy technology is exhausted its capabilities.

Therefore, this patent portfolio brings new ideas to existing technologies, and offers significant leverage to potential buyers in a market that is only expected to grow even further in the coming years.

Technology Overview

Online collaboration among a plurality of users has become very popular owing to widespread high-speed Internet connectivity for mobile and fixed users. Many of them now share their opinions and post content on various online web forums and web pages in real-time. A more dynamic form of online collaboration is Web conferencing, which allows users situated in different geographies to interact with each other through virtual tele-presence.

Nowadays, online collaboration is one of the widely used techniques to interact with people across different countries for business as well as personal effects. However, all instant messengers exchange information sentence-by-sentence, when user presses Enter (Return) key. Between that, his/her counterparty doesn't know whether user pays attention to him/her, or, say, gone for a coffee. Even if this user is around the computer, he has no way to know whether his/her counterparty is typing something for him/her. It reminds so-called half-duplex communication, like in walkie-talkie radio, when only one party is talking at a time, while another one is listening.

This creates a communication gap between the participants, which in turn leads to reduced productivity.

In real life, in person, on the phone or in the meeting room all people can talk simultaneously, seeing each other, even if somebody is silent, others can see him. It is called Presence Awareness.

Therefore, to improve user experience in an online collaboration environment, where users are thousands miles away, a more efficient way of creating presence perception is desired.

The portfolio describes a novel technology that provides a more efficient and productive online collaboration tool for multiple users connected through a network. One patent discloses the light-weight method of synchronizing content on the screen of remote users. Since average delay of messages in Internet is from ~50 to ~200 milliseconds, it's not easy to make all users changing common content at the same time. This is why all collaboration tools allow only one presenter, all others are just viewers. This portfolio allows all users to be presenters at the same time. It means that they all can type messages, draw and show pictures on the common media at the same time. Typing is transmitted to all participants character-by-character, including Delete and BackSpace buttons. It means that all participants see how somebody types a message, slowly or in rush, with typos, fixing them, changing his/her mind on what to say what not, etc. It creates perception of live person, with his/her state of mood, typing proficiency, not just a robot sending full sentences like in MSN Messenger or Google Talk. http://www.freemeeting.com demonstrates all these features.

Google Docs introduced some new elements of collaborative documents editing:

  • All participants see remote edits of text as they happen character-by-character. Our portfolio has the Priority date on this March 30 2007
  • Places where remote edits are happening are marked with text-type flag-like colored cursor. Those cursors in Google Docs are visible only when remote user is typing. In our technology the remote cursor is shadowing (representing) the remote mouse. It is always visible, even if remote user is not typing or drawing, but just moving mouse around or left it in one place, because gone for coffee.
  • To type in Google Sketchpad, user has to open dialog box, print text, then commit it. Only after the commit, his message becomes visible to all remote users. Same with drawing shapes and lines: they are visible to others only after committed. In our technology, to start typing, user has just to click the spot on the screen, and it will be visible to all users. Same for drawings, the first stroke in the line will be visible to all immediately.

Therefore, our collaboration features are more advanced than Google's. This is why we call it Presence Awareness.

Another patent applies this synchronization technique to mouse tracking. This results in that each user can see others remote pointers, and his/her mouse is visible to others as a pointer. Even if user is not typing or drawing anything, just his pointer movement indicates to others that this user is watching the screen, and not gone for coffee. This creates the incredible feeling of participants availability, called Presence Awareness.

This technique can be used not just alone in the multi-party collaboration, but on someone's website, on top of existing content. Visitors of the website can see each other and website host(ess), communicate with each other on website topic, or talk to host(ess) where to find some product or service etc. This patent breaks the loneliness perception of all current websites, including very popular ones. This is the first unique technique for websites, not available in Internet at all. www.enflock.com is a showcase of this.

For example, this third party website: www.freemeeting.com uses www.enflock.com technology. Let's say at some point of time, 4 Internet surfers visited this website. Then each Local user can see 3 other Remote users (their moving pointers), and they can see him. Once Local user approaches some Remote user, small popup frame appears for both users with proposal to talk. If both parties agree, the Chat frame pops up, and they start talking. It also has a potential to push advertisement banners into Chat frame, or Voice and Video shortcuts. Advantage of this kind of communication is that visitors can talk anonymously, but on the common content, which is deemed to be interesting to all parties (since they happen to meet on that website). This is the unique technology for websites, not available in Internet at all.

Yet another patent describes how to store that multi-user created content, and play it back either in corporate network or in Internet. Apparently, with such a collaboration system, when all users are presenters at the same time, very unique content is created, which should not be lost. Secondly, quite often the process of creating content is even more important than the result. This patent discloses how to record the meeting in real-time, and how to play it back, possibly with faster/lower speed. All user activities including typing, drawing, even simple mice movements are played back, like it was on real meeting.

This content can be published on web-server in form of web-pages as either dynamic content like above, or as the static final result. These pages can be linked together, making large website. No any HTML knowledge is required from users. This technique works great for web hosting companies and content providers. www.freemeeting.com demonstrates this technique.

Another patent extends this novel synchronization technique into gaming/gambling. As of today, all online games, including card games, move cards on predefined paths, even if real players control them. It defeats the feeling of real casino atmosphere, and may suspect that game is played with robots. This patent discloses how to move cards around with pointers, each of them representing human player. Player can move his/her card in any direction at his/her will, flip it over, show to others or hide it - at the same time as other players doing the same. Again, this is Presence Awareness in action: all players hands are visible on the table (screen), nobody can steal a card to a side to peak it. This is demoed at www.freemeeting.com.

Yet another patent deals with mandatory requirements from law enforcement agencies to monitor online activity - so called Lawful Intercept. With current instant messengers it's very easy to monitor the communication, because it occurs via stream of characters. With novel technique like in this portfolio, messages of interest can be transmitted not by characters of text. For example, by drawing letters with a mouse, or drawing arrows and markings over a photo of public buildings. Even not drawing, but just moving mouse around city image can transfer information between conspirators. This patent discloses the technique of making "silent" some authorized participants, who receive all messages from multi-user collaboration, but don't originate their own. These users watch the collaboration content exactly the same as any other participant. This technique is required not only for service providers to interface with law enforcement agencies, but for forum moderators, help-desk quality control, etc.

One more patent resolves scalability and reliability problem for deploying the portfolio. Any serious large-scale business cannot rely on a single appliance, for example web-server, to carry mission-critical applications. This application must be deployed across multiple servers locally (server farm), and dispersed geographically. It's easy to do for stateless protocols like HTTP, used on web-servers. But it's very difficult to do with stateful protocols, used in instant messaging. This patent utilizes unique features of multi-user synchronization, disclosed in other patents, and discloses how to span multi-user communication across multiple servers. Moreover, handling some messages differently from others, it creates perception for very-remote users that they are not-so-far away from most of users. This utility patent is valuable not only for this portfolio, but for some other stateful protocols as well, and brings value for content and service providers.

The claims of the mentioned patents and applications describe various different techniques for real-time online collaboration among multiple users, which creates presence perception. Some of the novel features of the patented techniques are:

  • Light-weight synchronization method of messages from Internet users thousands miles away, to make all of them presenters at the same time.
  • Real-time tracking and updates of a user's cursor position on other users displays, and on someone else's websites.
  • Recording and playing back multi-user communication over corporate network or Internet, creating non-HTML websites.
  • Moving cards or checkers on arbitrary paths like in real game.
  • Lawful Intercept of all activity in multi-party collaboration.
  • Scaling those techniques across multiple computer appliances.

To summarize, this patent portfolio has a huge potential in Internet meeting, web hosting, online gaming and instant messaging domains, social portals.

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