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Apple's contact service intelligently determines when to send a text instead of a call

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a patent for a dynamic communications system that automatically selects the best method of contacting another person, be it through voice, text or email, based on a given situation.

Contacting Service
Source: USPTO


Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,433,805 for a "Method and system for facilitating contacting people using electronic devices," describes a technique in which an inititing user can be automatically informed of the most appropriate way to contact another person. In the various embodiments that follow, a "contactee" can also manually select which method of communication is best for a given time, for example via email when in a business meeting.

The patent aims to solve the problem of missed connections due to circumstances where another mode of communication would have been preferable. As an example, a "contactor" wants to communicate with another user, but the contactee may not answer a phone call because they are driving. In this situation, a text message or email would have been preferable. Apple's patent looks to automatically, and dynamically, notify a contactor of which communications method is most appropriate.

According to one embodiment, a contacting service is used as the backbone of the system. Leveraging information from a network of monitoring devices, the contacting service can provide preferable contact methods to a contactor. To protect a user's privacy, the reason for method of contact may not be disclosed.

Contacting Service
Diagram of contacting service and deployed monitor devices.


Examples of monitoring devices include GPS, personal computers, microphones, web cameras and the like. Using the data provided by these devices, the contacting service can automatically determine a user's location and likely situation.

A contactee can configure the contacting service, which may be Internet-based, to set certain rules and parameters attached to the monitored device data. Customization options include time, location, activity, and others. For example, if a contacting service uses GPS data and determines a contactee is riding a high-speed train, the system will choose a mobile phone as a preferred method of communication.

Alternatively, parameters can be set through a graphical user interface, which assigns rules to specific situations and relays the data back to the contacting service.

Contacting Service
Illustration of contacting service GUI.


Priorities can also be assigned. Groups can be placed in a number of tiers, each of which carries special contact rules. A user's boss and spouse may be in Tier 1, while friends are in Tier 2, and co-workers in Tier 3.

With the variety of predetermined parameters selected, the contacting service is then ready to receive queries from a contactor. In one embodiment, the contactor selects a contact from an address list on a mobile device. The device queries the contacting service, the service determines a contactee's location or likely activity, checks the preset parameters and sends back a message to the contactor regarding which method is best suited for the situation. Contactor may then choose the preferred method, or wait to contact at a different time. The system can alternatively use the selected method automatically.

Contacting Service
Enabling rules through UI.


Users can also modify the parameter set through the GUI, making the system continuously customizable and allowing for error correction.

Contacting Service
Modifying parameters.


In some iterations, the service can even suggest the contactor simply walk over to the contactee if both users are in close proximity.

Apple's contacting service patent was first filed for in 2008 and credits Thomas Ethan Lowry as its inventor.
post #2 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by GadgetCanada View Post

I'm not a fan of companies getting patents for software. Pretty soon, small time hobby programmers will need to get permission to do certain software actions because it's patented. I can understand why large companies like Apple need to do this (hello Samsung) but I don't have to like it. 

What's the solution you have then?  Share intellectual properties with other companies and share profits?

post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by GadgetCanada View Post

I'm not a fan of companies getting patents for software. Pretty soon, small time hobby programmers will need to get permission to do certain software actions because it's patented. I can understand why large companies like Apple need to do this (hello Samsung) but I don't have to like it. This actual patent and idea would be very useful for both consumer and enterprise users. I wonder if they've been incorporating this into iOS 7 or if we'll have to wait for iOS 8.

No one can patent concept ,but any one can patent ,methods of  concept working because they don,t want to be get trolled..

post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by GadgetCanada View Post

I'm not a fan of companies getting patents for software. Pretty soon, small time hobby programmers will need to get permission to do certain software actions because it's patented. I can understand why large companies like Apple need to do this (hello Samsung) but I don't have to like it. This actual patent and idea would be very useful for both consumer and enterprise users. I wonder if they've been incorporating this into iOS 7 or if we'll have to wait for iOS 8.

I'm not a fan of the theft of intellectual property--by anyone, including "small time hobby programmers." Steve Jobs once said, "Stealing corrodes the character." Apple's SDKs are freely available to hobbyists, and this invention will most likely be incorporated into them at some point. This "permission" of which you speak is also available via Apple's developer program and via its app approval process for those who wish to transition from hobbyist to professional.

Daniel Swanson

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Daniel Swanson

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post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

In some iterations, the service can even suggest the contactor simply walk over to the contactee if both users are in close proximity.

Excellent lol.gif

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post #6 of 15
Originally Posted by fsad32 View Post
[post]

 

You want to come back to reality, please?

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply
post #7 of 15
Why do people seem to forget that patents are protecting a methodology not a concept in general. A patent protects the specific implementation of a technology not the general concept of a technology. For example, my neighbor invented the Heuristic Firewall (Artificial Intelligence Firewall, if you don't mind the inaccuracy) but there are many examples of alternative "Artificial Intelligence" Firewalls from competitors.
Edited by MacBook Pro - 4/30/13 at 8:56am
post #8 of 15
I haven't read the patent in question but I built something that sounds exactly like the description here. It was built in 2004-2006, and papers about it were published in academic literature. The system we built used cameras and microphones to determine user activity. Acoustic scene analysis was used to determine based on the noises around you what was going on. Face recognition cameras determined whether you were in a meeting room, overhead camera determined whether there was a meeting or if people were merely sitting at computers quietly. We also had the ability to project messages onto surfaces so you could get a text message without carrying your phone.

If Apple does try to sue somebody based on this patent, all they'll need to do is point to our lab's work, pay their lawyers ~$1m, and the problem will go away. Assuming they have the money to pay for lawyers. See? The system works.
post #9 of 15
Here's a paper from 2005:
https://cvhci.anthropomatik.kit.edu/~stiefel/papers/ICMI05_danninger.pdf

It has citations going back earlier.
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by gopiballava View Post

Here's a paper from 2005:
https://cvhci.anthropomatik.kit.edu/~stiefel/papers/ICMI05_danninger.pdf

It has citations going back earlier.

Nice find. It certainly seems to describe the Apple patent mentioned here.

melior diabolus quem scies
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melior diabolus quem scies
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post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post

Why do people seem to forget that patents are protecting a methodology not a concept in general. A patent protects the specific implementation of a technology not the general concept of a technology. 

 

Yes, that's the way it's supposed to be, but we keep seeing software patents that sound more like general concepts put into fancy words, with no truly specific implementation claimed.  

 

GENERAL IDEAS INSTEAD OF IMPLEMENTATIONS

 

E.g. Apple's patent on "universal search", which is really just a general idea as I laid out in this post.   There's no detailed implementation in the claims, only a general outline of concepts familiar to programmers.

 

Another good example is Apple's patent on locking finger scrolling to vertical or horizontal.  Judge Posner questioned its specificity, asking what angle they chose as the best angle, and what would happen if someone else used a different angle.   His point was that some of these patents are so vague, so general, that ANY implementation of THE BASIC IDEA would infringe.

 

COMMON SENSE GESTURES

 

Even worse in my mind, are patents on gestures.  Good grief.  Apple trying to patent the idea of rotating a knob onscreen?  Seriously?  Just because no one else tried to patent it?   We were doing that back in the 1980s on industrial touch controllers.  Or using more than one finger to do something on a multi-finger touchscreen?  What the heck are multi-touch screens for, if not using more than one finger??  Patenting gesture combinations is like patenting single music chords.

 

IMITATING DAILY ACTIONS

 

Another bad software patent category only seems to mimic, in software, an action or object from real life.  Slide to unlock is an example.   We've all grown up with slide locks on doors.  Doing virtually the same thing in software is not innovation, it's an imitation of a common physical object and/or action.  In fact, that's the whole point of the software version:  to remind the user of something easy to do.

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by gopiballava View Post

I haven't read the patent in question...

If Apple does try to sue somebody based on this patent, all they'll need to do is point to our lab's work, pay their lawyers ~$1m, and the problem will go away. Assuming they have the money to pay for lawyers. See? The system works.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post

Why do people seem to forget that patents are protecting a methodology not a concept in general. A patent protects the specific implementation of a technology not the general concept of a technology….

 

 

@gopiballava

First suggestion, making broad claims like this is not too smart when the first thing in your post says you have not read the patent. Second, MacBook Pro explained the limits of a patent pretty well. Do your homework, then maybe your comment will have credibility.

 

The suggestion that the system works, even sarcastically, is absurd. For that to be the case you have to assume application of laws uniformly. If you look at East Texas court (I claim TX as home and not proud of this) that is not the case there. Look at what Judge Koh and Judge Posner have done.

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by gopiballava View Post

Here's a paper from 2005:
https://cvhci.anthropomatik.kit.edu/~stiefel/papers/ICMI05_danninger.pdf...

 

Interesting paper. Talk about 1984! Maybe the prior art here is Orwell's book LOL.

 

Pretty spooky pictures. Check out face recognition zombie!

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Damn_Its_Hot View Post



@gopiballava
First suggestion, making broad claims like this is not too smart when the first thing in your post says you have not read the patent. Second, MacBook Pro explained the limits of a patent pretty well. Do your homework, then maybe your comment will have credibility.

I've now read the patent. We didn't pop up a UI to the user for new locations in the system we built because it was a proof of concept. But other than that it describes what we built. The calendar-based system was user-tested with ~100 users at Stanford University.

My instinct on the details of the patent was correct: the article here described the only interesting stuff. The "implementation" described in the patent claims is straightforward and is something anybody skilled in the field could do based on the outline of the goals.

To make it into a product would require a lot of work. Trying to get the human factors side right, trying to set up easy to comprehend preferences, that sort of thing.

The lab I worked at not only built a high level system like this, we also developed face recognition algorithms, acoustic scene analysis algorithms, distributed processing architecure to actually do the analysis of high bandwidth data, python extensions into speech processing algorithms so you could prototype algorithms quickly, etc. etc.

The device front end UI and the back end decision making (collecting information about what people were doing and where they were) were the components that I was writing. I didn't personally do any of the image processing algorithms.

We discussed but didn't publish further work on learning from your prior history how available you were likely to be. That would let us do something like figure out "this guy seems busy right now but he's *always* busy, so we should let this phone call go through because if we don't he will never get a phone call, ever". We also looked at how to model priority in a richer, more expressive way than the traditional single axis. My idea was to include both instantaneous priority as well as time-based priority. For example, is cleaning the toilet high priority or low priority? You may always have something more important to do, but you have to clean it. So, you could model it as "very high priority to do some time this week but low priority at instant points". This way of modeling it would fit with the schedule learning system: we would try to fit this into your schedule when you weren't doing anything important, but if we learned that you spent the whole week in medium priority stuff we would essentially elevate the priority of the task since it *must be done*, and would find the best medium-priority task to interrupt.
post #15 of 15
Originally Posted by fsad32 View Post
Congratulations my dear forum creature with typical behavior (you're making replies to users using only one tactics of personal humiliating of all commenters, this is very typically on any forum) welcome to Black list on my profile (you will be the only one there).

 

Will you also stop posting crap?

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply
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