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Microsoft Seeks 1-Click(er) Patent 86

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-your-clicks-are-belong-to-us dept.
theodp writes "Assuming things go patent reformer Microsoft's way, answering multiple choice, true/false, or yes/no questions in a classroom could soon constitute patent infringement. Microsoft's just-published patent application for its Adaptive Clicker Technique describes how 'multiple different types of clickers' can be used by students to answer questions posed by teachers. The interaction provided by its 'invention', explains Microsoft, 'increases attention and enhances learning.' Microsoft's Interactive Classroom Add-In for Office (video) provides polling features that allow students to 'answer and respond through their individual OneNote notebooks, hand-held clickers, or computers, and the results display in the [PowerPoint] presentation.' So, did Bill Gates mention to Oprah that the education revolution will be patented?"
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Microsoft Seeks 1-Click(er) Patent

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  • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @12:10PM (#34528998)

    Claim 1: A computer-implemented process for allowing different types of clicker devices to be used in a personal response system, comprising:

    receiving inputs from more than one type of clicker device;

    formatting the inputs from the more than one type of clicker device with at least one clicker adapter for the type of clicker device to adapt the inputs from the more than one type of clicker device to a common single polling controller;

    processing the adapted inputs from the clicker adapters with the polling controller to interface the adapted inputs with a personal response system software application to allow user polling data to be obtained,

    wherein the receiving, formatting and processing are performed by at least one processor.

    • by srmalloy (263556)

      If the USPTO suffers a complete lack of its normal idiocy and grants the patent rationally, they'd grant it for clicker devices used in conjunction with Microsoft Office and no further. And the proprietor of the Alternate Destination will announce a cooling trend and the opening of a ski resort in Malebolge.

      • by jappleng (1805148)
        But you know they don't have any sense of intelligence over at the USPO so they will once again grant this patent as "Universal" and research around the world will now have to list "do not select me" as one of their options to avoid patent infringement. IMO I hope this gets passed and like 50 other blatantly obvious to life patents so there could be even more material to add to a future lawsuit against the patent system so it can either be destroyed or rebooted for modern day use once and for all.
    • Show's Host: Boy, That last clip sure seemed "innovative", [Applaud Light Flashes]
      but will it oust the Amazon 1-Click?

      Who will be the winner of the most absurd patent?

      Audience, You Decide! Take out your buzzers and Vote Now.

      Home viewers call or send a text to 1-800-555-8008 to vote for Microsoft, or 1-800-555-5413 to vote for Amazon.
      Or, place your vote online a our website [...]

    • by drmofe (523606) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @02:47PM (#34529752)
      Wow. I may actually have prior art on this. I implemented such a system for my PhD thesis in 1990.
      • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @03:04PM (#34529856)

        You can submit your prior art within 2 months of the application's publication date to the USPTO under 37 CFR 1.99 [uspto.gov]. There is a fee of $180 associated with doing so (covering up to 10 references submitted), and you have to make sure you jump through all the hoops that the regulation requires (e.g., you're not allowed to explain the relevance of your prior art, and you have to serve the applicant with a copy of your submission).

        • by UBfusion (1303959)

          He's not alone, I am betting at least 10 companies producing clickers will make such submissions. We're using here a 2-year old clicker system by Hitachi, featuring both a standalone app and a PowerPoint plugin. I skimmed the patent and I did not see any radical difference in use from what our system does, except from the "different types of clicker devices" part, which might be interpreted as Office getting embedded drivers for the different brands of clickers available on the market, thus making custom cl

        • so prior art is only prior art if someone payed the patent office basically what comes down to being bribe money to look at it?

          Talk about a stupid system which should be thrown out.

          • The fee is to prevent a third party from submitting thousands of documents to the USPTO regarding an application, which would create an expense not covered by fees and which would likely cause delays in prosecution of the application. I'm sure you don't want actual tax dollars covering the operational costs of the USPTO, do you?

            Now, an applicant does have a duty to disclose documents pertinent to the patentability of their invention. You could conceivably send them the documents and hope that they submit

    • by ratboy666 (104074) <[fred_weigel] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Monday December 13, 2010 @12:33AM (#34532006) Homepage Journal

      In 1977/78, I worked on a system called PEAC. It was developed for CTW (Childrens Television Workshop), and used for Sesame Street production (among other programs).

      A number of clicker boxes were plugged into a charging/syncing station. All of the clickers could be synchronized by a single button press. They were then disseminated into an audience. Both demographic questions (are you male/female, what is your age, etc.) were collected, and then polling data for the program was collected (like/dislike on a scale of 1 to 5, for example).

      Afterwards, the clickers were put back into the syncing station, and the data was transferred to an Apple ][. If the material was sourced from a video tape, a secondary audio channel was written to the tape, with time marks.

      The time marks were fed into the Apple ][ audio controller, and the floppy based demographic and polling data was then set up to produce interactive cross-tabulations, color swash (called "mondrian" analysis), and other investigative approaches. The bulk of the analysis software was written in Apple ][ Integer BASIC, along with machine code routines for actually performing the cross tabulation.

      The Apple ][ was chosen because it supported "color" graphics, audio input, and floppy discs.

      The system was delivered in 1977/78.

      I don't know when it was decommissioned. But, I imagine it wasn't unique (well, the time synchronization made the "user interface" simple -- just fast forward, rewind and play on the video tape deck! The audio channel was composed of many short independent "files", each recording a time-stamp; and, I have never seen the "mondrian" style display for analysis again, but maybe it was a bust). But the patent is deliberatly vague about that end of things, anyway.

      Now, honestly, we would have liked to use RF, infrared, or "mobile device" clickers. Instead, we had to develop our own stand-alone clicker device (and, honestly, I don't know if you can run 30 IR clickers in a classroom at the same time!). RF would have been an option -- but we put storage into each clicker, and synchronized the lot in the charging station. But, the need for clicker synchronization was a weak point, and we recognized that (back then). We could have used low frequency FM (47Mhz required a license, and cell and "wifi" didn't exist). So, low power 88Mhz was an option. Still, not as reliable as the hard-sync approach.

      Another problem (back then) was that available AFFORDABLE computers would have been hard-pressed to reliably support 30 concurrent clickers. We would also have needed to add a processing layer in to support that. With a sync box, each clicker could be read out and converted to floppy in turn.

      We did think of it. It was documented. Question is, does the paper from back then even exist? We never considered it patentable material.

    • Claim 1: A computer-implemented process for allowing different types of clicker devices to be used in a personal response system, comprising:

      receiving inputs from more than one type of clicker device;

      ....snip.....

      This is a blatant attempt to corner the voting machine business.

      In that a computer is a mechanism then they are attempting to patent voting machines.... even the old mechanical ones where you pulled levers. The levers clicked...

  • goodness. i'm teaching a large lecture class and we already do this. i think it's been going on, on a large scale, for 5-10 years. this doesn't matter? seriously?
    • Re:old tech (Score:4, Interesting)

      by queequeg1 (180099) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @12:13PM (#34529012)

      Has your class been doing this with more than one type of clicker device? When I initially read the summary, I thought that there was tons of prior art. Haven't game shows been using clicker techology for years to poll what the audience things ("Who Wants to be Millionaire?" for example). The distinguishing feature here might be more than one type of clicker. I'm not sure where that distinction would come in handy, however. Any ideas?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ArgumentBoy (669152)
        yes. some kids use laptops, some use smartphones, and some use (several models of) dedicated clickers.
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Keyboard, mouse, game controllers, touch screens, graphic tablets, even the individual keyboard can be deemed as individual devices (who can forget ctrl alt del as the default control keys for windows). So basically a greed driven attempt to patent what already exists because no one else has attempted to patent it yet.

    • goodness. i'm teaching a large lecture class and we already do this. i think it's been going on, on a large scale, for 5-10 years. this doesn't matter? seriously?

      While it specifically mentions integrating with Microsoft technology (e.g. OneNote), I wonder if it is similar enough to technology used in game shows, or even Congress, for voting.

      Prior art?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 12, 2010 @12:14PM (#34529014)
    My guess is that theodp has grossly over simplified what the patent is really about and the summary is nothing but a troll. Welcome to Slashdot.
    • My guess is that theodp has grossly over simplified what the patent is really about and the summary is nothing but a troll.

      We have a winner!

      For those of you just joining always remember that the primary troll key words used on slashdot are "Patent", "Microsoft", "Apple", "iPhone", and "iOS" (in no particular order). Any story featuring any one of those words has an 88% likelihood of being a troll. If the story mentions two of them it's 94%, and if three or more of the keywords appear it is guaranteed 100

  • This is new functionality. The claim to fame here is using multiple input devices, not just one. If it were just one, I'm sure iClicker would already have a patent on it. Does anyone have examples of an application where students can answer through iClickers, OneNote, etc. at the same time to answer a prompt thrown by a professor in an auditorium?
    • by Haedrian (1676506)
      http://theopinion.in/tamil-nadu-student-wins-microsoft-imagine-cup-2010-finals-amongst-85000-students-across-india/

      Found this... its sort of like that.
    • So using my Mouse Click and the Touch Screen on the PC in the same APP is going to be in breach of this patent?

      AFAIK, using a mouse button and a touch screen are different types of pointer devices.
      Move the mouse, click.
      Swipe the screen and touch it, click.

      Pah. Bah Humbug.

    • Check out http://www.einstruction.com/products/student-response-systems [einstruction.com]. They allow both mobile, computer, and clicker type devices for the same system. This seems to be prior art for what is claimed (not just the abstract).
    • by camperslo (704715)

      Pre-iMac Macs had an interface buss called ADB (Apple Desktop Buss). One could string multiple input devices together and use them at the same time. Support went beyond mice, keyboards, trackpads, game controllers, drawing tablets etc. A third party product called ADBI/O used the ADB to interface external hardware through the ADB. It could interact with custom Apps or simple scripts (Apple Script). The ADBI/O could be support multiple contact closure inputs and do A/D conversion of voltages (anything t

    • by number11 (129686)

      The claim to fame here is using multiple input devices, not just one. If it were just one, I'm sure iClicker would already have a patent on it. Does anyone have examples of an application where students can answer through iClickers, OneNote, etc. at the same time to answer a prompt thrown by a professor in an auditorium?

      At least a decade ago, maybe longer, I participated in large (100 or more members, usually in a hotel convention room) market research focus groups that used similar technology. Each audience member had a keypad, they connected by radio with a base station. "Next slide.. this depicts a new product, underwear made of flavored yoghurt.. press 1 if you want some today, press 2 if you would be interested in hearing more, press 3 if you think it's ok for other people but not for you, press 4 if you think it's a

    • "This is new functionality. The claim to fame here is using multiple input devices, not just one."

      It is called the Slashdot Poll. Some people use computers with Linux, some Windows, some OS X, and others use "phones" running iOS or Android. Some use mouse, some use trackballs, some use touchscreens, etc.. In some cases Opera is used, in others Firefox, Chrome, or even IE in a pinch. It doesn't matter if students use it in an auditorium with professors, or geeks use it to waste time, for the same reason

  • by teambpsi (307527) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @12:20PM (#34529042) Homepage

    In Minnesota an in classroom system called DISCOURSE had this in the early 90's -- should be an easy patent to knock down.

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      No, it probably had one kind of clicker. This is a patent on allowing more than one kind of device to send the signal that the base station receives. That's an incredible innovation. That's why TVs compatible with universal remotes were patented. Imagine the technological innovation that had to go into televisions to allow them to properly respond to signals coming from multiple different types of devices!
      • by fonos (847221)
        In some lectures at UW-Madison we're required to use a clicker system to answer question. We can use a dedicated clicker, our smartphones, or our laptops to use as a "clicker". Prior art.
    • by paiute (550198)

      In Minnesota an in classroom system called DISCOURSE had this in the early 90's -- should be an easy patent to knock down.

      Yeah. Easy if you have more and better lawyers than Microsoft.

    • by bit01 (644603)

      In Minnesota an in classroom system called DISCOURSE had this in the early 90's -- should be an easy patent to knock down.

      Unfortunately probably not since the PTO is finding increasingly insignificant differences are significant. When all you've got is a hammer everything begins to look like a nail.

      ---

      The patent system. The whole edifice is based on handwaving.

  • https://www.microsoft.com/multipoint/mouse-sdk/

    "Windows MultiPoint Mouse Software Development Kit (SDK) gives education publishers the ability to build interactive applications that allow up to 25 students, each with their own mouse, to simultaneously engage on a single PC. "

    Its a freely downloadable SDK. Should we be worried?
    • Wonder how that works? Does it just average what direction all the difference mice are going, then move the cursor in that average direction [so everybody gets a vote on where the cursor should go]?

      • by grcumb (781340)

        Wonder how that works? Does it just average what direction all the difference mice are going, then move the cursor in that average direction [so everybody gets a vote on where the cursor should go]?

        Congratulations! You just invented the digital Ouija Board!

  • OK, so how does this patent differ from what America's Funniest Home Videos did back in the 80s? Each audience member had a clicker (so there was more than one) and made a simple selection based on 3 choices. The information was aggregated and a prize was given. I really don't see why anyone would allow MS's patent on this.
    • Yeah, and today's reality shows do the same thing, but also allow voting via text message, telephone and/or website (where you actually use a mouse as a clicker on the latter).

  • Education, despite looking like a big institution, is affected just as hard as small companies and individuals.

  • gates institute (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by fermion (181285)
    Gates is in education to direct money. The latest study from the gates institute is that adolescent perform better on tests if they like their teachers. This is exactly what some in education want to hear as it minimizes objective measurements like experience, education, and certification and maximizes non-objective measures like "relationship". Although the study attempts to relate adolescent random emotions to thing like classroom control, the reality is that ineffective teacher can often maintains con
  • I thought Apple was the evil one this day and age and Microsoft was the good boy. ^^

  • Patent attempt is a waste of money, but the "zeal" and "company loyalty" demonstrated by wasting time and money while increasing hatred for Microsoft will undoubtedly get someone a nice promotion. This is the way corporations work ... and the military, educational establishments, and governments.
  • So they want to patent a button/switch in effect. Oh man: an invention that registers when someone pushes it. Or am i seeing this wrong?
  • Maybe if they patent "clickers using student-generated response" I could avoid taking tests all together.
  • There was a game show in the 70's where the contestants, rather than pushing a button on the lectern to indicate a desire to answer a question, pushed a button on a hand-held device. I don't recall the name of the show, and I don't even remember whether the hand-held device was "electronic" (i.e. SPST switch). But the home version (the board game) came with metal mechanical clickers -- a metal half-shell with a metal reed extending over the shell. Pushing down on the reed made a sound similar to X-Wing l
  • The Abstract (Score:3, Informative)

    by DavidD_CA (750156) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @04:42PM (#34530318) Homepage

    For those of you who are too lazy to click on the link for the abstract:

    An adaptive clicker technique is described that provides a standardized polling control and a registration system to support mixed types of clickers and integrate the polling data. One embodiment of the adaptive clicker technique operates as follows. User inputs from more than one type of clicker device (e.g., personal interactive response system device) are received. The inputs from the more than one type of clicker device are formatted with a clicker adapter for each type of clicker to adapt user inputs to a common polling controller. The adapted inputs are then processed with the common polling controller to interface the adapted inputs with a personal response system software application to allow user polling data to be collected and assessed.

    So no, there is no prior art as far as I can tell. This is like a middle-man approach so that a variety of inputs can be used in any setting such as a classroom. I presume this means a student could respond to a question via text message, laptop running One Note, a tablet running Chrome, an iPad app, or a generic clicker device hooked up to who-knows-what, and all the data is aggregated together.

    The advantage being twofold: the administrator (teacher) doesn't have to somehow write code for 10 different inputs, and the students don't have to standardize on one input device.

    Why patent it? Because Microsoft has to. If they don't, then someone else will and they could waste time and money in courts over it. That's why Microsoft and others are pushing for patent reform.

    • by gozar (39392)

      As someone mentioned before, polleverywhere.com has been doing this since it's inception, allowing votes by web or SMS, and now you can even vote by Twitter.

      Most of the student response systems that have been sold in the last couple of years allow you to use multiple devices to vote, this really isn't a new idea.

      • by DavidD_CA (750156)

        But does it then integrate the poll results back into a PowerPoint or OneNote object, live while the poll is being conducted?

    • by Shompol (1690084)
      In a similarly revolutionary breakthrough, an Australian inventor patented a "circular transportation facilitation device" [newscientist.com]. This invention alone will rocket our civilization into the bronze age and beyond.

      Now thanks to Microsoft's ingenuity, we can finally embrace the technological advances of the 80's. Patent royalty is a small price to pay for such a breakthrough. I just wish they invent computer soon, so we don't have to mess with these "clicker devices"...

      • by DavidD_CA (750156)

        All the more reason why you and others might be in favor of Microsoft's attempt to reform the patent system.

        They don't like it either.

        And if you think Microsoft is the only company patenting everything they do left-and-right, think again. IBM started the trend a long time ago, and companies like Google and Apple are right up there with Microsoft.

  • I haven't been in a classroom for a while, but when I took tests, I don't remember using a clicker, a tablet or a laptop, and I don't remember it updating any PowerPoint presentations.

  • I saw this idea in Physics classes at K-state. It uses any device which has a web browser (smart phone, pda, laptop, etc). I think it was called In-class or something like that. It was very bare bones and basic, but also very useful for what they wanted. The research seems to show an improvement in the students that use it. It even had some functionality not mentioned in this patent such as allowing for groups of students to pool their answers and then reevaluate based on what their group had answered
  • There is firm prior art.

    Jeopardy!

  • If God wanted Microsoft to have 1-click patent, why he let them use mouse with more than one button?

  • (Calm down, this is what I refer to [encycloped...matica.com]) :-D :-D :-D

    Automated and multiple choice "tests" are bane and cancer of education process. If schools will be prevented from using them, students would have to actually solve problems, and teachers will have to ask meaningful questions instead of inventing plausible but wrong answers to trick students into revealing how little they understand.

    • Generally these sorts of "clicker" activities are not designed for testing (though of course they could be used for that purpose). Rather they are an attempt to engage to audience in some participatory activities that from an educational standpoint are hoping to encourage the participant to be in a more "active learning" mode rather than the "passive learning" mode that is common in a lecture situation.

      Generally speaking, humans learn more efficiently when they actively participate in activities that incorp

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