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Mobile Sharing: "Bezos Beep" Vs. Smartphone Bump 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the talk-talk-talk dept.
theodp writes "GeekWire wonders if the 'Bezos Beep' could replace the smartphone bump for mobile content sharing. A newly-published patent application listing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as sole inventor describes the use of audio signals to share content and communicate between devices, eliminating the need for NFC chips and facilitating the simultaneous sharing of content with multiple people via a remote server. From the patent application: 'For example, a first device can emit an encoded audio signal that can be received by any capable device within audio range of the device. Any device receiving the signal can decode the information included in the signal and obtain a location to access the content from that information.'"
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Mobile Sharing: "Bezos Beep" Vs. Smartphone Bump

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  • by pryoplasm (809342) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:22AM (#43138001)

    Doesn't sound like a software based dialup modem at all...

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:24AM (#43138029)

      Actually it's talking about a broadcast medium, where any device within range can listen to the encoded signal.

      Modem? They are trying to patent talking!

      • by langelgjm (860756) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:36AM (#43138191) Journal

        Yeah, I read the claim (there's only one):

        1. A method of sharing information for accessing content on a computing device, comprising: generating, on a first device, an encoded information signal, the information signal including information associated with accessing the content; outputting the encoded information signal as an audible signal; audibly receiving, at a second device, the encoded information signal; decoding the information signal to identify the information associated with accessing the content; and accessing the content with the second device utilizing at least part of the information associated with accessing the content, wherein the second device accesses the content from a source other than the first device.

        So... if I take an acoustic coupler, amplify its volume, and put it near two handsets, then use the connection to access a URL, I'd be violating this patent. If this is granted, it will be (another) sad day for the USPTO.

        • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:44AM (#43138301) Journal

          Wouldn't a 300BPS acoustic Modem qualify as Prior art, other than the "content from another source". I'm asking, because the "other source" shouldn't really matter ... should it?

          And, while I'm thinking about it, should the "acoustic" be key part, shouldn't this be abstracted more? If the abstracted version of the process is common, why would the specifics be granted, especially since this is all abstract in the first place?

          • The 'other source' part is a distinct aspect of the claim(since the whole point is that, like QR codes, the only direct communication is the URI, with the cell data connection handling the rest); but it's not as though emailing somebody a link, or using an HTTP 3XX redirect, over a modem is terribly new...

            From a patentability perspective it would matter, except that it is no more novel, interesting, or non-obvious than the rest of the patent...

          • Wouldn't a 300BPS acoustic Modem qualify as Prior art?

            Wouldn't an ear also count as prior art?

      • by SIGBUS (8236) on Monday March 11, 2013 @11:23AM (#43138735) Homepage

        The old Zenith TV remotes used ultrasonic signals to activate TV functions. There's nothing new here other than "on a computer."

        • by SQLGuru (980662)

          I would accept this as prior art. An acoustic coupled modem isn't so much of a broadcast as it was a point-to-point, but the remote would work multiple TVs if they were in the area. Broadcast for sure.

          The missing piece is that the information communicated would be a location.

          Of course, if we could sound as energy, then it's not much different than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        More worrisom - I don't want every one in the room to get my contact information when I give it to a friend. I hope they implement this with a 'public key' request/reply mechanism.

        Request sends person's name, public key.
        You can then pick one of the last few requests to respond to.

        I declare this modification on the original idea, public domain.

    • by ledow (319597) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:24AM (#43138033) Homepage

      Seems like we have indeed come full-circle, except now the audio just encodes a link (presumably with no lengthy initial communication phase) and the rest of the content is actually on the Internet.

      Also seems less secure - now anyone can play one of those sounds and try to get you to go to it, or intercept the communication to work out what you're doing.

      • Audio data rates aren't too bad, provided there aren't any background noises to figure out. You could exchange keys, broadcast to a room full of your friends, and share.

        Modulation, demodulation, as stated upthread.

        Some patent officer needs their logic examined, just prior to being sacked.

        • Some patent officer needs their logic examined, just prior to being sacked.

          In the history of Slashdot, was there ever a report of a patent that Slashdot users didn't think was invalid due to prior art? Where posters didn't claim the patent officer is wrong?

          Given that some patents must actually be valid (not necessarily this one), there appears to be something wrong with the hivemind's concepts of what valid patents are.

          Now I'm no expert on patents. But my guess is that it's the idea that prior art in and of itself disqualifies a patent. Because if you look at most patent applicati

          • by fritsd (924429)

            Given that some patents must actually be valid (not necessarily this one), ...

            Could you please elaborate how this is a given, because I don't understand it.

            • Because they are granted, challenged and upheld in a court of law.

              You might think that there shouldn't be patents at all. But that's a very different argument from particular patents being invalid under current patent law.

              • by fritsd (924429)
                OK, agreed, if they are challenged and upheld in a court of law then they're by definition valid in that jurisdiction. And you're right that I believe we'd be better off without them :-)
      • You can already try to do that with the cellular signals.

        Just because we can now audibly hear the signals, doesnt make it any more "broadcast" than cell / wifi, or any less secure. Security will entirely depend on whether and how they encrypt the signal, and as always has remarkably little to do with the medium used.

      • Seems like we have indeed come full-circle, except now the audio just encodes a link (presumably with no lengthy initial communication phase) and the rest of the content is actually on the Internet.

        'cause you know, everything has to go through the cloud. Even when we're standing right next to each other. Gotta use that data plan and allow for big brother monitoring in every case.

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        On top of that, if the encoded audio is just a link, then why bother with the audio at all? Just push it to the other phone through the service and be done with it. If the point is being cross-platform, the audio is not a compatibility bridge if it still requires accessing the data from a central server.

        • by jfengel (409917)

          The advantage of the audio is that it allows you to say who you're pushing it to. If the service is running on some server somewhere, even if the two devices say, "I would like to push my identifier out", you still have the problem of how to specify to whom. You only need a few bits of information to go direct from device to device, but you do need them.

          Audio's kind of obvious for that, since you know that the devices have speakers and mics. If you assume they have cameras, you could display a QR code on on

          • by omnichad (1198475)

            But NFC's can be near-universal just about as easily or quickly as an OS update to enable this. And the physical bump turns the circuitry on and off. How many Android phones out there are still stuck on their original version of Android?

            For audio, you'd either have to activate it manually or have the microphone listening all day and interpreting all audio - that would kill that battery. Or a hardware button which adds to the cost about as much as a wireless chip that now includes NFC. The Broadcom BCM43

    • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:36AM (#43138201)
      New form of urban terrorism: Ringtone trolling. Set your ringtone to loud, have it as the encoded URL to $ShockSite.
      • by Xemu (50595) on Monday March 11, 2013 @11:11AM (#43138611) Homepage

        New form of urban terrorism: Ringtone trolling. Set your ringtone to loud, have it as the encoded URL to $ShockSite.

        In the next generation of this technology, there will be a secure way of transmitting messages by moving the audio in a small tube connected to the other device.

        Future developments may include sending audio messages to multiple devices across a network of interconnected tubes.

    • by rgbscan (321794) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:59AM (#43138495) Homepage

      Or, say, broadcasting Commodore 64 software over the radio...

      http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-08/20/finland-radio-code-broadcasts?page=all

    • Didn't Digital Convergence Corporation (of ::Cue::Cat [wikipedia.org] infamy) have an audio que that could be transmitted over television?
    • Computers from the 80s used to do this, the only difference is that they didn't include urls.

  • Yeah, and... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 6Yankee (597075) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:23AM (#43138011)

    ...marketers won't use this to hijack my phone anywhere they can get hold of a speaker.

    • ...marketers won't use this to hijack my phone anywhere they can get hold of a speaker.

      Destroying one's ability to hear high-pitched sounds is going to become a popular elective surgery once every public space has a background of marketing bullshit URIs encoded in ghastly modem warble...

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:55AM (#43138449)

      they'll play it so loud, it Hertz!

    • I would hope that you'd have to put your phone in "listen" mode before it would detect such a signal.
      • ...so it's basically the same as with bluetooth!

        The complicated part about exchanging stuff by bluetooth is that no one has it turned on all the time and when at some point you really want to receive a file, it takes you 10minutes to rummage through your phone's menus trying to find the checkbox to turn on receiving files from unknown devices..

  • Dang (Score:5, Funny)

    by nortcele (186941) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:23AM (#43138019) Homepage
    Jeff just patented the 300 baud modem.
    • Re:Dang (Score:5, Funny)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:33AM (#43138137) Journal

      Jeff just patented the 300 baud modem.

      No, no, no! He said 'encode' and 'decode' rather than 'modulate' and 'demodulate', which makes this totally different. Plus, we all know that the patentability of an otherwise ridiculous claim can be magically restored by the addition of 'over the internet' or 'on a cellphone'. This patent includes both!

      • He said 'encode' and 'decode' rather than 'modulate' and 'demodulate', which makes this totally different.

        Ah, so he's patented the endec then!

        over the internet' or 'on a cellphone'

        That's an improvement. Back in the olden days it was "on a steam engine".

        • by omnichad (1198475)

          Ah, so he's patented the endec then!

          I think the word you're looking for is "codec"

          • by jxander (2605655)

            False.

            Codecs already exist, so they clearly can not be the subject of a new patent. We obviously have a brand new concept, the likes of which has never been seen before : All hail endec!

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      I was going to make my usual patent-related post about how it's actually a neat solution (useful) to use a cell phone's speakerphone as a modem, how many other engineers have ended up using NFC chips to solve the same problem (non-obvious), and how it's not something currently done (novel), making the patent valid.

      Then I took the advice I usually spout, and read the claims rather than making a knee-jerk reaction post. All of the claims are reproduced here for your convenience:

      1. A method of sharing information for accessing content on a computing device, comprising: generating, on a first device, an encoded information signal, the information signal including information associated with accessing the content; outputting the encoded information signal as an audible signal; audibly receiving, at a second device, the encoded information signal; decoding the information signal to identify the information associated with accessing the content; and accessing the content with the second device utilizing at least part of the information associated with accessing the content, wherein the second device accesses the content from a source other than the first device.

      Damn. That's the shortest claim

      • by tepples (727027)

        using the 300-baud modem to transmit only a link to content found somewhere else

        So sending a URL using dial-up to someone who retrieves the URL using something other than dial-up would infringe.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Jeff just patented the 300 baud modem.

      Obviously the man is onto something... I mean, the NFC shows good promises, but there is a clear (and admitted as such) limitation: the near part of it.
      Also obvious, Jeff's not a engineer: instead of addressing the limitation, he threw the baby with the water and switched the communication carrier from EM to sound... needless to say that the bandwidth will be awful and interference a big problem

      Now, to address the limitation, a clever engineer will want to keep the EM but increase both the range and the fr

  • I wonder how susceptible these would be to excess "similar" sounds around them. Old school television remotes didn't use infrared, they used higher pitched audio generated from something similar to tiny tuning forks. The problem was, a ring of keys jingling could mess with them completely.

    Would these be using ultra or sonic frequencies? The latter would be cost prohibitive (speakers, etc..), the former probably the same for both the speakers and the microphones (read transmitters receivers).

    • I suspect that(unlike TV remotes old enough to use near-ultrasonic signalling) this method could keep throwing checksums and similar at the problem until false-positives were reduced to only slightly more likely than having cosmic ray corruption 'send' the same URL by corrupting the right area of memory.

      That would do considerably less to deal with interference cutting the effective data rate to zero, or nearly zero, from time to time(which would then require adding some sort of ACK to the process, or a lot

    • by Quila (201335)

      I know a few people who still call remotes "clickers."

  • by DontScotty (978874) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:26AM (#43138051) Homepage Journal

    Audio version of QR Codes....

    Yet another failure brought to you by people targeting people unwilling to type in a URL.

    "The needs of the stupid outweigh the needs of the smart, or the sane"
    -Doctor Speck, Start Wreck

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Here's the thing, QR codes are still the best technology for this. Anyone with a web browser in their portable device probably has a camera in there too, and that's more likely than NFC. And of course, relying on audible noises is a failure on multiple levels. I understand not wanting to type a URL. I just used a google QR download link because my device doesn't have a physical keyboard. It made me happy.

  • R2-D2 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Misagon (1135) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:34AM (#43138149)

    R2-D2 communicates with other devices (C-3PO) using beeps, ... and he can store and play back content in form of holographic messages.

    Besides, R2-D2 was made a long long time ago... Definitely prior art.

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      I think you might be mixing up your George Lucas with your Don McLean. Though that may might a quite amusing parody.

  • I just finally got the sound of a connecting modem out of my head...

  • by Mikkeles (698461) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:37AM (#43138205)

    I remember recording various bzzts, pings, bwrrps and the like from the radio onto tape which were Commodore 64 programs.

  • I don't see why people are complaining, this is brilliant. Just imagine, since we already have phones that can carry audio these modulated tones could be broadcast over that network. This would be a simple and cheap method of sending data to and from any residence.

    Hopefully someone will one day implement this vision.

  • I hope he isn't just relying on the fact that most people have forgotten about those horrible buzz boxes.

    • Yes, and the last thing I want is find myself in a room with a bunch of cellphones chirping away, broadcasting audio data to one another. Cellphones are annoying enough when people use stupid ringtones (scratch that, they're annoying when they ring almost all the time in fact). I think I'd go peculiar if they starting screaming modem noises all the time.

      What's wrong with Bluetooth or IRDA? It's a lot faster and it's quiet ferchrissake...

  • by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:50AM (#43138387) Homepage

    'For example, a first device can emit an encoded audio signal that can be received by any capable device within audio range of the device. Any device receiving the signal can decode the information'

    It's also called speech.

    • 'For example, a first device can emit an encoded audio signal that can be received by any capable device within audio range of the device. Any device receiving the signal can decode the information'

      It's also called speech.

      More specifically, language.

      Ungeachtet, dessen ist es nicht neu oder einzigartige irgendeiner Form.

      Apologies to any devices which can decode the above signal, my, er, "programming" skill are atrocious.

    • by jfengel (409917)

      If you've got a phone capable of decoding general speech, you should definitely apply for a patent on it.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:50AM (#43138389) Homepage

    So it's basically like all other radio-based protocols, but at lower frequencies?
    Yup; definitely worthy of a patent.

    • by chihowa (366380)

      So it's basically like all other radio-based protocols, but at lower frequencies?
      Yup; definitely worthy of a patent.

      Except it's sound, not radio.

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:51AM (#43138403)

    Yeah, most people are beating the shit out of this, prior art, IR, bluetooth, QR codes, whatever...Thay have a point. Transmitting data via audio is new? Nope.
    But glanced at the patent app, it's actually a *little* more clever than that; the sound would just send a link to download content from a remote server, (presumably owned by Amazon), so you would not go mad while your kid's phone whistled and crackled it's way through transferring a lolcats jpeg.
    Superficially quite smart, since as they point out, not all phones have bluetooth or whatever ability.

    But to implement it, you'd presumably need a smartish phone, and they all have ways of doing this kind of data-transfer already. So I'll give this a fail.

    Could be fun, though, imagine "could you just humm that URL for me again, please?"

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      How is that any different than sending a URL via a modem?

      A URL is just data too. It is data that contains a way to get more data over another source, but it is still just text data.

      • How is that any different than sending a URL via a modem?

        Urm, the cable?

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          How is that a big change?

          You never lifted the handset off the acoustic coupler to see how far you could lift it and have it still work?

          Removing the cable is obvious and not something that should be patentable.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      that much was obvious from the article blurb?
      "VIA A REMOTE SERVER".

      it still would take as many steps as to do it with bluetooth. only thing here is saving the cost of chips - not reducing the amount of action the user needs to take.(you sure as fuck don't want this thing listening for codes all the time)

  • by MagicM (85041) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:53AM (#43138421)

    A follow-up patent application describes the use of audio signals to communicate between devices and their peripherals, eliminating the need for Bluetooth chips. From the patent application: 'Look at what we can do with a speaker and a microphone. Isn't it neat?"

    • by Thud457 (234763)
      new patent lode? with a computer^W^W^W on the internet^W^W^W wirelessly^W audio encoded?
  • Prior art? chrp.io (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @11:01AM (#43138513)

    This app has been around for a year or so:

    http://chirp.io

    Might be considered prior art?

    • How is this more efficient than Bump? It's an iPhone app that you tap your phones as the cue to send the file (from the queue on your phone) .. No special chips like NFC.

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        10 seconds on the Bump website told me how - Bump sends the phone's sensor data to Bump's servers the cloud in order to be processed to determine who the bump was from and what the bump was for, before making a connection between the two.

        Chirp just sends a link via audio that the other user(s) can follow. No cloud necessary, and any device close enough to pick up the chirp can follow the link.

        Chirp has to be an order of magnitude more efficient in terms of getting its information from one device to another

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      Maybe you should send that link to the USPTO, it might help.

  • My understanding of the way that NFC works is that two devices are bumped together which then kicks off local encrypted radio communication between the two devices where data is exchanged. The Data exchange is local, secure, and between two trusted devices.

    My understanding of the article is that the patented invention is to us a tone to send data between two local devices. Data is then uploaded (or pre-uploaded) to a third party server and download using the URL from the data stream embedded in the sound.

    • by mu51c10rd (187182)

      ... I don't think so, Tim...

      Congratulations on probably being the first poster on Slashdot to use a Home Improvement reference. I had thought the rules stated only Star Wars, Star Trek, Matrix, and obscure Sci-Fi show references were permitted.

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      Yes, and I'm sure an always-on microphone is going to aid battery life greatly. It's a glorified QR code.

  • by l3v1 (787564)
    So, data transfer using modulated signals. From a prior art point of view, it shouldn't matter what the frequency of the signal is (i.e. is it audible or not), everything working along the ideas of a modem or radio signal should count as prior art. There are a lot of miserable patents which only differ from prior stuff because they are implemented in/on a mobile device, and this sounds (pun intended) no different.
  • by Zeromous (668365) on Monday March 11, 2013 @11:33AM (#43138841) Homepage

    As described this sounds like the worst idea ever.

    WHY:
    First off, how is an encrypted audio transmission any different from a higher frequency wireless transmission?

    HOW:
    How is this better than a wireless transmission?

    WHEN:
    On earth would I want my smart phone listening to everything around it, including stuff I can't here and acting on those signals without further interaction on my part.

    WHAT:
    the F*

    The only advantage here is some sort of multicasting, but again, why would I want this?

  • So it's like traditional wireless such as bluetooth except more susceptible to interference, it has a shorter range, it's easier to intercept, it relies on top quality speakers for a broadcast source (and top quality mics) to receive data correctly, and it's able to be perceived by humans. Wow, what a step in the wrong direction.
  • I've being trying to think up app ideas for a while, and this was something I thought of. Not as any kind of killer app, admittedly, more as an interesting science project with few practical applications. Damn you Bezos!
  • I'm curious what kind of throughput you could expect to get between two phones.

    The way this is explained, you wouldn't need much to pass 512 bytes or less for even a long URL, but I'm kind of curious how much throughput you could expect with 'modern' phones that may have high resolution audio or if you connected the phones directly with a cable with a mini-stereo plug at both ends.

    I'd imagine that the way it would actually be deployed would involved a lot of redundancy and error checking since it would be p

    • by janimal (172428)

      Phone 1: Hello, how do you do?
      Phone 2: How do you do.
      Phone 1: Shake?
      Phone 2: Shake.
      Phone 1: Let's get down to business.
      Phone 2: Give it to me.
      Phone 1: I just sent you an email, can you please check it?
      Phone 2: Ah, got it. Wow, it's 10MB.
      Phone 1: Yep.
      Phone 2: Thanks, see you.

      No bandwidth necessary. You can do it with text to voice and voice recognition and still fit 10MB in 20 seconds.

      • by swb (14022)

        No, I'm thinking about it as a pure data transport path, not the Bezos described way where information is sent about a data transfer that has/will/can happen over the more typical data transmission paths.

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      A previous poster noted that Chirp [chirp.io] for Android and Iphone does exactly that - passes a link via little audio chirps. Anybody running Chirp can pickup the link and follow it, like an audio QR code.

      Bezos's idea sounds like sort of a combination of Bump [bu.mp] and Chirp - using audio chirps to set up an internet connection (via the cloud) between the phones instead of using sensor data from the bumps to set up that same connection.

      Neat, but pretty damn obvious (you've already got two companies doing almost the same

  • This is what it sounds like
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsNaR6FRuO0 [youtube.com]

  • by Chelloveck (14643) on Monday March 11, 2013 @01:07PM (#43140001) Homepage

    "could replace the smartphone bump for mobile content sharing"

    Does anyone actually do that? I mean, other than in a couple of crappy TV ads? For that matter, has anyone ever used device-to-device file sharing more than once to see that it works? Outside of a couple novelty applications I never actually saw the Palm Pilot's beaming used for anything, or (god help us) Zune's squirting.

    I guess if Bezos wants to patent an existing technology in a "novel" new application that nobody wants to use anyway, it's his money to throw away...

  • It could be a system based on bits of Bezos' terrifying laugh.
  • I worked at a computer-telephony company on a super-secret new protocol called ADSI to combine voice and data simultaneously on a phone call. A little analog filtering, a bit of digital signal processing. Typical chicken-and-egg problem - we had a great pizza-ordering demo for the combined voice and data (much more fun than the financial demo Marketing originally thought of), but no store (or industry!) wanted to buy a server since no customers had the phones yet, and nobody was buying phones because the
  • by Ozoner (1406169) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:13PM (#43144377)

    Once again the hams have been doing this for ever.

    Imagine a radio class where people are earning Morse Code. Copying data sent as audio from a buzzer.

    Or all the umpteen sound card communication applications like PSK31.

    A standard source of fun at Ham meets is to have a PSK31 "scramble" where a bunch of people use their laptops to communicate simultaneously via PSK31 and audio.

    And a hundred other examples I could think of.

There is hardly a thing in the world that some man can not make a little worse and sell a little cheaper.

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