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Application-specific group listing

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20120272163 patent thumbnailZoom

Application-specific group listing


A method, apparatus, and system for providing active contents between applications activated by a plurality of computer systems are provided. A list of one or more remote users is created. A determination is made whether a first application and a second application are being executed by the at least one or more remote users. The list is updated in response to determining a change in a status of the second application being executed by the one or more remote users using at least one communications feature associated with the first application.

Apple Inc. - Browse recent Apple patents - Cupertino, CA, US
Inventor: Michael Stochosky
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120272163 - Class: 715753 (USPTO) - 10/25/12 - Class 715 
Data Processing: Presentation Processing Of Document, Operator Interface Processing, And Screen Saver Display Processing > Operator Interface (e.g., Graphical User Interface) >Computer Supported Collaborative Work Between Plural Users >Computer Conferencing

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120272163, Application-specific group listing.

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BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to a user interface for sharing content, and, more particularly, to a method, apparatus and system for providing utilization of an intermediary module to share content relating to a particular application.

2. Description of the Related Art

Networks, such as the Internet, intranets, or other private or public networks, are ubiquitous. In fact, many computers are connected to one or more networks at the same time. For example, a business may have hundreds or even thousands of computers coupled to its own private network, which was, at least initially, used primarily for storage and exchange of computer files. At least some of these same business computers may also be coupled to the internet. Further, with the development of wireless devices, ad hoc networks may also be formed with properly configured portable devices. Even telephonic devices, such as cellular phones, pagers and the like, may be coupled to one or more of these networks. Small businesses and homes are also often connected in similar arrangements.

All of this connectivity has naturally led to communications between various users over these networks. For example, electronic mail (e-mail), because of its usefulness, is now commonplace. E-mail is now widely used by businesses and individuals, and in at least some instances has replaced more traditional forms of communications, such as mailed letters, facsimiles, telexes, and the like. However, e-mail has proven to be somewhat awkward when used to carry on an ongoing interaction.

Instant messaging, on the other hand, allows two or more users connected through these networks to carry on an interactive conversation. Exemplary instant messaging systems include Apple iChat®, AOL Instant Messenger®, Microsoft MSN Messenger®, Yahoo® and the like. Typically, two or more users type in messages or select icons, which they send to one another. The receiving party(ies) may immediately respond with an appropriate message or icon. These instant messages are commonly displayed on a participant\'s monitor in serial fashion, usually scrolling the user\'s screen from top to bottom.

Each user typically maintains a listing of other people or parties with whom they routinely communicate. Various instant messaging systems use different terminology to identify these other parties, but commonly they are referred to as users, contacts, buddies, or the like. The buddies list allows the user to initiate a conversation with a person on the list by simply selecting them from the list. Additionally, the user can readily determine which of his/her buddies are available by checking a status flag. For example, the listing can be configured to display the status of each buddy. Thus, when a buddy is on-line or available to receive an instant message his/her status is indicated as being on-line or available.

Among the problems associated with the state of the art includes the fact that there is a lack of ability among various users to interact efficiently in the context of an application. Generally, in order to share active contents of a particular application, the user generally has to terminate the activation of an application and separately send various contents to another user who may be on the buddy list of the first user. For example, if a first user is executing a first application, a second user who may be on the buddy list of the first user generally cannot efficiently receive or interact with the first application being executed by the first user. Generally, applications executed by various users are standalone type applications where interactivity between various users in a real-time fashion is generally not possible.

Since various applications are standalone entities, communicating using another module such as instant messaging or e-mailing features, may require actually moving from one platform to another on a multi-tasking-type computer. This requires leaving one application to be able to communicate using another application. For example, one user may have an instant messaging application running concurrently with various other applications, such as word processors, graphics applications, multi-media applications, and the like. In order to communicate with another user on the buddy list, a user would have to leave a particular active application and enter a communications application, such as an email application. In other words, the user would have to leave particular active applications (e.g., word processing application, graphics application, multi-media application, etc.) and enter the communications application in order to perform communications described above. Again, this would compromise the real-time interaction between various users within the context of a particular application.

Furthermore, in order to provide for access of active applications between various users, developers of various applications would have to build client server functionality for each application to provide a collaborative embodiment. Additionally, in order to provide the ability to share content and other aspects of particular applications among various users, a significant amount of work to build connectivity relationships, such as peer-to-peer relationships between various environments, would likely be required. This would call for generating a new class of interaction between various users instead of the traditional client/server relationship.

E-mailing various portions of an application for sharing with another user would be difficult to implement in real-time. Generally, a user may have to close a particular application, extract a file, and e-mail that file to a second user, wherein the second user will have to open that particular file after leaving an active application to do so. Meanwhile, the real-time interaction would be lost in such a situation. Additionally, various applications are developed such that e-mailing various files associated with these applications may be difficult. One such example would be multimedia files because, generally, multimedia files tend to be large size files. E-mailing such large files may be problematic among various users.

The present invention is directed to overcoming or at least reducing one or more of the problems set forth above.

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect of the present invention, a method is provided for providing active contents between applications activated by a plurality of computer systems. A list of one or more remote users is created. A determination is made whether a first application and a second application are being executed by the at least one or more remote users. The list is updated in response to determining a change in a status of the second application being executed by the one or more remote users using at least one communications feature associated with the first application.

In another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided for providing active contents between applications activated by a plurality of computer systems. The system of the present invention includes a first terminal that is capable of activating a first application, a second terminal capable of activating a second application, and a network system to operatively interconnect the first terminal to the second terminal. The system also includes an application interface that is adapted to create a list of users relating to the first and second terminals. The application interface is capable of determining whether at least one of the first and second applications is being executed by at least one of the first and second terminals. The application interface is also capable of updating the list in response to determining a change in a status of at least one of the first and second applications being executed by at least one of the first and second terminals.

In still another aspect of the present invention, a chat module is provided for providing active contents between applications activated by a plurality of computer systems. The chat module includes a communications unit to provide for log in of a first remote terminal into a network system and provide for communications with a second remote terminal operatively coupled to the network system. The chat module also includes a graphical user interface (GUI) module operatively coupled to the communications unit. The GUI module is adapted to receive a command to provide active content relating to at least one of a first application being executed by the first remote terminal and a second application being executed by the second remote terminal. The chat module is capable of creating a list of users relating to the first and second remote terminals. The chat module is also capable of determining whether at least one of the first and second applications are being executed by at least one of the first and second remote terminals. The chat module is also capable of updating the list in response to determining a change in a status of at least one of the first and second applications being executed by at least one of the first and second remote terminals.

In yet another aspect of the present invention, a computer readable program storage device encoded with instructions is provided for providing active contents between applications activated by a plurality of computer systems. The computer readable program storage device encoded with instructions that, when executed by a computer, performs a method, which comprises: creating a list of one or more remote users; determining whether a first application and a second application are being executed by the at least one or more remote users; and updating the list in response to determining a change in a status of the second application being executed by the one or more remote users using at least one communications feature associated with the first application.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention may be understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference numerals identify like elements, and in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a stylized computer network system, in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a client/server network system, in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3A illustrates a more detailed block diagram illustration of a first and second users associated with the client/server network system, in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3B illustrates an alternative embodiment of the first and second users associated with the client/server network system of FIG. 3A;

FIG. 4 illustrates a peer-to-peer system, in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 illustrates a more detailed block diagram depiction of an application interface of FIGS. 2 and 4, in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates a block diagram depiction of an interaction between an application being executed by a first and second user;

FIG. 7 illustrates a more detailed block diagram depiction of a client module of FIG. 5, in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 illustrates a flowchart depicting a method in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 9 illustrates a more detailed illustration of an application interface function of FIG. 8, in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention.

While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and are herein described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the description herein of specific embodiments is not intended to limit the invention to the particular forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

OF SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS

Illustrative embodiments of the invention are described below. In the interest of clarity, not all features of an actual implementation are described in this specification. It will of course be appreciated that in the development of any such actual embodiment, numerous implementation-specific decisions must be made to achieve the developers\' specific goals, such as compliance with system-related and business-related constraints, which will vary from one implementation to another. Moreover, it will be appreciated that such a development effort might be complex and time-consuming, but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking for those of ordinary skill in the art having the benefit of this disclosure.

Embodiments of the present invention provide for real-time or near real-time interaction between various computer users in the context of a particular application. Utilizing embodiments of the present invention, a first user may be able to execute a particular application and communicate with a second user and provide various active contents relating to various aspects of the application to the second user based upon a communication platform, such as an instant messaging platform. For example, a contact list, such as a buddy list relating to an instant messaging platform, may be generated among various users and utilizing embodiments of the present invention, users may share various contents of particular applications via the application running the contact list. For example, a user executing a word processing application may communicate and send various aspects of the word processing application, such as a text document, to another user via a communication platform, such as an instant messaging platform. The contact list may be application specific, wherein each application may have a corresponding contact list. Other examples of applications that may be used in conjunction with embodiments of the present invention may include, but is not limited to, a graphics application, a photo-editing application, a game application, a database application, a presentation application, a organizer application, and/or a drawing application

Utilizing embodiments of the present invention, a first user may recognize, based upon the updating of a contact list, when a second user is active within a similar application as the one being executed by the first user. The first user may then interface with the second user within the context of the application. Embodiments of the present invention may also provide status updates of various users becoming active or inactive in the application on their respective terminals/computers, thereby providing a real-time status of various users utilizing a particular application. Therefore, utilizing embodiments of the present invention, real-time and/or near real-time content sharing of a particular application or multiple applications may be performed utilizing an independent communication platform such as an instant messaging platform, e.g., the iChat® platform offered by Apple Computer, Inc. of Cupertino, Calif.

Turning now to FIG. 1, a block diagram depicting a system 100, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention, is illustrated. The system 100 includes a plurality of computing devices coupled together through one or more network connections. For example, a plurality of devices may be coupled together via a private or public network, such as a local area network (LAN) or the Internet 102. In an alternative embodiment, the plurality of devices may be coupled together via an Intranet system. The actual connection between the devices and the Internet 102 may take on one or more of any of a variety of forms, such as a network interface card (NIC), a modem, a digital subscriber line (DSL), a cable modem, a wireless connection, and the like. The devices coupled to the Internet 102 may include, for example, desktop computers or servers, such as an Apple Macintosh® 104, a classic Apple Mac® 106, a Power Mac G4®, a Power Mac G5®, an iMac®, an IBM compatible personal computer (PC) 108, and the like. Further, these desktop computers, such as the Apple Macintosh® 104, may be coupled together via a smaller sub-LAN 110, with the sub-LAN 110 being coupled to the Internet 102. Portable devices, such as the Apple PowerBook® or iBook® 112, may also be coupled to the Internet 102, either directly or as part of the sub-LAN 110. Further, other consumer devices, such as cell phones, personal data assistants (PDAs), network appliances, and other embedded devices may be connected to the Internet 102 to employ aspects of the present invention.

The system 100 includes a plurality of servers 114, 116 associated with a plurality of instant messaging providers. The servers 114, 116 are each capable of hosting one or more programs designed to facilitate an instant messaging session between two or more of the computing devices. For example, the server 114 may host programs designed to facilitate communications via iChat® or Microsoft MSN Messenger®. Likewise, the server 116 may host programs designed to facilitate communications via AOL Instant Messenger® or Yahoo®. In other embodiments of the present invention, additional servers may be present in the system 100 to host programs designed to facilitate communications via a plurality of other instant messaging systems. Using the communications application, such as iChat®, the server 116 may facilitate communications relating to active contents of various applications executed by users of the desktop or portable computers illustrated in FIG. 1.

While the invention has been illustrated herein as being useful in a network environment, it also has application in other connected environments. For example, two or more of the devices described above may be coupled together via device-to-device connections, such as by hard cabling, radio frequency signals (e.g., 802.11(a), 802.11(b), 802.11(g), Bluetooth, or the like), infrared coupling, telephone lines and modems, or the like. The present invention may have application in any environment where two or more users are interconnected and capable of communicating with one another.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that network connections may include a variety of other equipment, such as routers, switches, telephone modems, wireless devices, cable modems, digital subscriber lines, and the like. This type of equipment is not illustrated or discussed in detail herein so as to avoid unnecessarily obfuscating the present invention. For purposes of understanding the present invention, it is sufficient to recognize that additional conventional equipment of this type may be useful in establishing and maintaining communications between the various users.

At least two of the devices in the system 100 have software, such as an application program or a software client, installed thereon to allow an instant messaging session to be initiated and conducted. Generally, operation of an instant messaging system also involves, at least initially, the servers 114, 116. The following description of the operation of an instant messaging system assumes that a user has previously obtained a copy of a software client for his/her computing device, and installed the software client. Thus, the instant messaging session begins when a local user runs or opens the software client. The software client tries to connect to the associated server 114,116 using a predefined protocol. Once the client is connected to the server 114, 116, a log-on procedure is followed to access or create an account. The log-on procedure may be manual or automatic, but generally involves entry of a name and password to log on to the server 114, 116. If this is the first time that the local user has logged on, he/she may be prompted to sign up for an account and begin using it. When the server 114, 116 verifies the entered name and password, the local user is logged onto his/her account.

The software client sends the server 114, 116 information regarding the connection, such as an IP address and a number of the port assigned to the client. The server 114, 116 accesses a database contained therein and provides the user with his/her contact list or buddy list associated with the account. Initially, the buddy list may be empty, but over time, a user may enter a large number of buddies with which he/she routinely communicates. The contact list or buddy list may be integrated into a particular independent application (e.g., a word processor application, a multi-media application, etc.) being executed by users of the desktop or portable computers illustrated in FIG. 1. The server 114, 116 creates a temporary file and stores connection information regarding the user and the list of buddies/contacts. The server 114, 116 then checks the status of each of the remote users in the local user\'s buddy list to determine which, if any, are currently logged in/active/on-line.

If the server 114, 116 finds any of the buddies logged on, it sends a message back to the software client on his/her computing device with the connection information for those buddies. The server 114, 116 also sends his/her connection information to the other users in the local user\'s contact list that are signed (or logged) on to their respective accounts. When the client software gets the connection information for a remote user in the local user\'s buddy list, it changes the “status” of that person to “Online.”

An instant messaging session can be initiated with any of these “online” buddies by selecting their name in the buddy list. A graphical user interface (GUI) opens, allowing the user to enter messages, manage the instant messaging session, and/or exchange active content relating to applications being executed by various users of the desktop or portable computers illustrated in FIG. 1. The remote user receives the local user\'s “instant message” and may respond. The GUI that each user sees on his/her respective computer display expands to include a scrolling dialog of the conversation. Thereafter, each user\'s instant messages appear in the GUI on both computing devices.

When the conversation is completed, or a user exits a particular application, the users close the GUI, go offline from the application, and/or exit the software client. When this happens, the software client sends a message to the server 114, 116 to terminate the session. The server 114, 116 sends a message to the software client of each user on the local user\'s buddy list that is currently online to indicate that the local user has logged off a particular application. Finally, the server deletes the log in the temporary file that contains the connection information for the local user\'s software client or the local user\'s active status in an application. Thus, in the buddy lists of the local user\'s contacts that are online, the local user\'s name moves to the “Offline” status section for a particular application.

Turning now to FIG. 2, a client/server based system, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention, is illustrated. The system illustrated in FIG. 2 may comprise a plurality of users that may operate from various remote terminals/computers, such as the terminals described in FIG. 1. A network system 260 may host various users. The network system 260 may comprise a server 280 that is capable of providing for communications between various users. The network system 260 may be linked to a first user 210, a second user 220, a third user 230, and a fourth user 240, to an Nth user 250. In one embodiment, the first through Nth users 210-250 may be of various types of computing devices, physical or virtual, such as a computer, a telephone, a settop box, a network appliance, or any device capable of connecting to the network system 260 and receiving active content.

Each of the users 210-250 may comprise an application interface (AI) 270 that is capable of providing a communication interface between an application executed by a first user 210, for example, to other users, for example a second user 220, via the network system 260. This communication interface may be facilitated by a communication application, such as an instant messaging application (e.g., iChat®). Utilizing embodiments of the present invention, a first user 210 may execute a particular application via the application interface 270, and may communicate within the context of the application to exchange active content with a second user 220, who is also executing a similar application. This communication may be performed at a real-time and/or a near real-time fashion. A more detailed illustration of the application interface 270 is provided in various figures and accompanying descriptions below.

Turning now to FIG. 3A, a more detailed illustration of various applications being executed by the first user 210 and the second user 220 is illustrated. This illustration of the execution of various applications is for illustrative purposes and those skilled in the art would appreciate that alternate execution of applications may be performed and remain within the spirit and scope of the present invention. As illustrated in FIG. 3A, the first user 210 may execute one or more e.g., first application 310 as well as a second application 320, and/or more applications. For example, the first application 310 may be a non-communications application, such as a word processing program and the second application 320 may be a another non-communications application such as a photo-editing program. The term non-communications application may include various types of applications that are not exclusively dedicated to providing communications, such as a chat application or an email application. Similarly, the second user 220 may execute the second application 320 and a third application 340. Utilizing embodiments of the present invention, the first user 210 may be able to view a contact list or a buddy list 350, which may provide an indication of the status of other users who are executing similar applications and are part of the contact list 350 implemented by the first user 210. For example, the contact list 350a associated with the first application 310 may indicate that the third user 230 and the Nth user 250 are also active in the first application 310 on their respective remote terminals.

Similarly, for example, a second contact list 350b associated with the second application 320 may indicate that the second user 220, the third user 230, as well as the fourth user 240 are active in the second application 320 on their respective remote terminals. Likewise as indicated in FIG. 3A, the second user 220 may view a third contact list 350c associated with the second application 320 that may indicate that the first user 210, third user 230 and the fourth user 240 are active in the second application 320. Furthermore, the second user 220 may recognize that a fourth contact list 350d associated with the third application 340 indicates that the Nth user 250 is active in the third application 340 being executed on a remote terminal associated with the Nth user 250.

The users appearing on the various contact lists 350a-d, associated with particular applications being executed by the first user 210, generally belong to a contact list or a buddy list 350(a-d) created by the first user 210. In one embodiment, only preferred users 210-250, which are selected by the first user 210, will appear on the first and second contact lists 350a, 350b. A particular user may register interest to be part of a buddy list. In one embodiment, a user may register interest in being part of a buddy list for a particular group of people. In one embodiment, the group of people to which a user is registering interest, may include a group of people who are active in a particular application. In an alternative embodiment, any one of the 1st through Nth user 210-250, or any one of the 1st through Nth piers 410-440, may perform a polling function to determine if a particular user is to be added to a buddy list, or determine if a particular user is active and available for communications via an active application. The first application 310 and the second application 320 will generally communicate via the application interface 270.

In one embodiment, the application interface 270 may comprise sub-application interfaces AI(1) 360 and AI(2) 370, which are respectively associated with the first application 310 and the second application 320. Similarly, the second user 220 may also comprise an application interface 270 that comprises an AI(2) 370 and an AI(3) 380 associated respectively with the second application 320 and third application 340. The application interface 270 is utilized by the first user 210 and the second user 220 to provide for a communications interface between the applications 310, 320, 340. Therefore, an intermediate module, such as a chat program or an instant messaging program, such as iChat® offered by Apple Computer, Inc. of Cupertino, Calif., may be utilized to facilitate active contact transactions and other communications between the applications being executed by the first user 210 and other users associated with the network system 260. Further details relating to the type of communications facilitated by the application interface 270 are provided below.

Turning now to FIG. 3B, a more detailed illustration of an alternative embodiment of the first user 210 and the second user 220 executing various applications is illustrated. The embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3B provide for a general buddy list that may encompass a buddy list (communications list) for a plurality of applications. As illustrated in FIG. 3B, the first user 210 may execute one or more applications, e.g., first application 310 and the second application 320. For example, the first application 310 may be a word processing program and the second application 320 may be a photo editing program. Similarly, the second user 220 may execute one or more applications, e.g., the second application 320 and a third application 340. The first user 210 may comprise a buddy list 390, which may list various users, such as the second user 220, a third user 330, and a fourth user 340.

The buddy list 390 may indicate the particular applications that are being executed by the users listed in the buddy list 390. For example, the buddy list 390 of the first user 210 may indicate that the second user 220 is executing the second and third applications 320, 340. Likewise, a buddy list 395 in the second user 220 will list various users and any particular applications executed by the user. For example, the buddy list 395 of the second user 220 may indicate that the first user 210 is executing the first and second applications 310, 320. The listing of the applications and the users in the buddy lists 390, 395 may generally be based upon a registration of various users that the first user 210 may register into the buddy list 390.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120272163 A1
Publish Date
10/25/2012
Document #
13527285
File Date
06/19/2012
USPTO Class
715753
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
/
Drawings
11



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