The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 43 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we uncover a major surprise. Apple has been granted a major multiplayer gaming patent that emphasizes the integration of chat sessions over mesh and focus networks. Two of Apple's engineers that are listed on this patent have worked extensively on other FaceTime and/or iChat patents in the past which gives this aspect of the patent credibility. Last week we covered Apple's patent filing for new pivotal-styled buttons for a game controller and a secondary granted patent published today covers techniques for controlling gaming accessories on an iDevice. With Apple's CEO talking about new product and service categories being in the pipeline over the next two years, it would appear that advancing gaming to a whole new level may be one of the top ones coming our way. Without a doubt, today's gaming patent is by far the most detailed of them all to date. To top off our report we provide you with a full list of the other patents that were granted to Apple today.
Apple Granted Patent for
Apple has been granted a major multiplayer gaming patent today. Apple's invention uses several different types of networks to relay several different types of media content among several different computing devices (such as desktop computers or mobile computing devices). The media content of some embodiments is data that a computing device can process in order to provide a presentation of the media content to a user of the device. Examples of types of such media content include audio data, video data, text data, picture data, game data, and/or other media data.
While you would think that such a complicated videoconferencing system described in this patent would be for the enterprise, and it could, Apple's focus zeros in on delivering a very high-end video gaming experience specifically for multiplayer gamers who will be able to use chat, video and other forms of communication while gaming with their buddies.
Getting to the heart of the matter, Apple states that the computing device of some embodiments includes several modules to enable to perform its mesh and focus/non-focus networking operations. Apple's patent FIG. 24 shown below illustrates an example of some such modules relating to software architecture 2400 of a computing device. The modules in this architecture allow the computing device to join a mesh network to exchange game data in a multi-participant game and to join a focus network to exchange audio data of the participants during the game. This architecture also supports the exchange of video data of the participants during the game.
As shown above in patent FIG. 9, game data (shown as patent point # 935) is transmitted among the computing devices 910-930 across mesh-network links, which are depicted as thin curved lines connecting the computing devices.
A Basic Overview of Setting up a Game
Apple's patent FIG. 6 note above conceptually illustrates a process 600 performed by a computing device of a first player to set up a game with an audio chat capability. This process is performed by one or more software applications that are executing on this computing device. The process first sets up a mesh network to exchange game data and later sets up a focus network to exchange audio data with other computing devices of the other players during the game. In some embodiments, the process is performed simultaneously (or nearly simultaneously) by each of the devices joining the multiplayer game.
In some embodiments, the process starts when the player directs his computing device to start a multiplayer game with other players using their computing devices. The player can direct their computing device by entering inputs, such as clicking a mouse button or tapping a touchscreen to select a UI item, and/or pressing keys on a keyboard, etc.
In some cases, the player joins a game that is already in progress, or joins a game at the start of the game in response to an invitation of another.
However, in the exemplary process illustrated in Apple's patent FIG. 6, it is assumed that the player is the one who initiates the game. Accordingly, in this example, the process initially accesses (at 605) a matchmaking server to receive a list of players for the multi-player game.
In some embodiments, the list contains a number of players whose criteria for playing the game match with the criteria of the first player using the computing device. For example, the players in the list might be interested in the same game with other live participants (e.g., as opposed to playing against a computer-controlled character).
In other embodiments, the list contains players that the first player specifically invited through the matchmaking server to play the game. In some embodiments, the list also contains information about each player's computing device that enables the first player's device to reach the other players' computing devices. Such information might include a network address (e.g., an IP address) of the other player's computing device.
Once the mesh network connecting all computing devices of the players in the list is built, the process joins (at 615) the player to the game that the players have agreed to play. That is, the process starts generating game data for the first player's representation in the game. The process then sends (at 620) this game data to each of the other computing devices through the mesh network. At 620, the process also starts to receive game data from the other computing devices through the mesh network.
Adding Chat (or FaceTime)
Apple states that while the game is being played among the computing devices (i.e., while the game data is exchanged among the computing devices through the mesh network), the process determines (at 625) whether to elect to join an audio chat session with other computing devices of other players who are playing the game.
In some embodiments, this determination is based on the input from the player of the computing device executing the process. Such inputs might include, for example, the player's selection of an option to initiate a chat session or to elect to join a chat session initiated by one or more of the other players in the game. This selection may involve clicking a mouse button or tapping a touchscreen to select a UI item, selecting an option through keyboard input, etc.
Some embodiments initiate a chat by exchanging beacons among the computing devices in the mesh network for the game. In some embodiments, each beacon is a piece of data that indicates to another device the sender's desire to establish a link with the receiver. The beacon of some embodiments provides at least identification information about the sender.
When the process determines (at 625) that the player has not specified that the process should join or initiate an audio chat session with other computing devices, the process determines (at 635) whether the game has ended. In some cases, a game ends by mutual agreement of the players and corresponding input to the computing devices.
Apple credits Roberto Garcia, Berkat Tung, Nirav Patel, Jeong Hyeonkuk and Joe Abuan as the inventors of this granted patent which was originally filed in Q3 2010 under application number 12/832,046 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Techniques for Controlling Accessories on iDevices
Another minor gaming patent was issued to Apple for an "Accessory protocol for touch screen device accessibility." The patent covers techniques for controlling an iDevice using an accessory, such as a game controller accessory.
So as to go beyond the example below, Apple lists a number of possible accessories that they have in mind which includes some interesting ones, as follows: joysticks, steering wheels, push buttons, remote controls, foot pedals, alternative keyboards, head pointing devices, and haptic mice.
For the disabled, Apple lists a possible refreshable Braille display and a switch device for users with limited motor capability (e.g., a user blows into a straw or a button that a user presses, combined with scanner software that scans through command options and maps a specific input from the user to one of the commands).
Apple credits Christopher Fleizach, Paul Holden, Eric Seymour, Emily Schubert, Lawrence Bolton and Sylvain Louboutin as the inventors of this granted patent which was originally filed in Q1 2010 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. To review today's granted patent claims and details, see patent 8,433,828.
The Remaining Patents that were granted to Apple Today
A Note for Tech Sites Covering our Report: We ask tech sites covering our report to kindly limit the use of our graphics to one image. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation.
Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
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