Mark Twain once said that truth is stranger than fiction. Well, last week the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Microsoft that confirms that very saying. Today Fitbit is duking it out with Samsung's Gear and there's great anticipation regarding Apple's possible entry into the wearables market this fall with a health-related device using advanced biosensors. While Microsoft is considering a smartwatch as well, it now appears that they may want to take a completely different course that's quite eccentric. They've invented a mood changing/health device in the form of a robotic butterfly. What's the use of having a stress gauging app on your smartwatch or smartphone if you have no way of doing anything about it, right? So in Microsoft's great wisdom, they think that a robotic butterfly device fluttering all about you changing colors will be able to change your mood for the better in no time flat. It sure sounds freaky and if they ever decided to add Cortana's voice to the butterfly's feature set I think that it would create quite the buzz. Then again, that would likely require launching a robotic bee and that could very well be next.
Microsoft's Patent Background
Stress has a wide range of negative impacts on people, ranging from declines in real-time task performance to development of chronic health conditions. Despite the increasing availability of sensors and methods for detecting stress, there are very few existing stress intervention applications. Further, gaps still exist between what a person perceives as stress, and what is actually going on in the person's body.
Microsoft's invention describes techniques and apparatuses for implementing a mood-actuated device. In various embodiments, indicators of an emotional state of a user are sensed, and a mood-actuated device is controlled to react based on the emotional state of the user. In some embodiments, the mood-actuated device includes a mechanical component that is configured to react by moving based on the emotional state of the user.
Microsoft's Robotic Butterfly
Microsoft's patent FIG. 5 noted below illustrates a detailed example #500 of a mood-actuated device #108 that includes a mechanical component # 502. In this example, the mood-actuated device is implemented as a robotic butterfly, and mechanical component #502 is implemented as mechanical wings of the robotic butterfly. The mechanical component of the mood-actuated device is controlled by a specific controller to react by moving based on the emotional state of the user.
The controller can vary the speed and/or the amount of movement of mechanical component (the wings) to indicate the emotional state of the user. For example, the controller causes the wings of the robotic butterfly to move a small distance, resulting in a "gentle hover". The controller can also cause the wings of the robotic butterfly to move a greater distance and result in a "large flap" of the wings.
In various embodiments, the mechanical component 502 is controlled to indicate the emotional state of the user by moving to visually mirror the emotional state of the user. As described herein, a movement of the mechanical component visually mirrors an emotional state when characteristics of the movement represent characteristics of the emotional state. For example, the gentle hover of the mechanical wings at 504 may visually mirror that the emotional state of the user is calm or relaxed. In contrast, the large flap of the wings at 508 may visually mirror that the user is stressed, excited, and/or nervous.
In some cases, the robotic butterfly's controller can also control the speed at which mechanical wings move. For example, the controller can control the duration of time for the full wingtip-to-wingtip contraction of the large flap to represent different emotional states of the user.
The larger flap may cause awareness by the user that they're stressed, which enables the user to act to reduce this stress level, such as by taking a few deep breaths or going for a walk. If the user is successful in relaxing, the wings of the robotic butterfly notify the user that they're calming down by moving in the gentle hover as illustrated at #504. It is to be appreciated, that noticing the wings move in the gentle hover may help to reassure the user that their stress level has been reduced.
In some embodiments, mechanical component 502 is configured to move in a way that can help change the emotional state of the user. The movements that can help change the emotional state of the user can be based on studies that indicate that the user's emotional state is changed by watching or interacting with the movement of the mechanical component. For example, if the emotional state of the user is "stressed", then the controller component can cause the wings to react in a way that may help to calm the user such, as by causing the wings of the robotic butterfly to move in the gentle hover. Watching the wings of the mechanical butterfly move in the gentle hover may help relax the user, thereby changing the user's emotional state from stressed to calm.
Flexible Wing Material
Microsoft's patent FIG. 4 noted below illustrates a detailed example #400 of the mood-actuated device that includes a flexible material shown as patent point #402. In this example, the flexible material of mood-actuated device is controlled by the controller to react to a change in the emotional state of the user by changing shapes from a flat shape illustrated at #108-a to a crumpled or enfolded shape illustrated at #108-b.
Microsoft further notes the wings can change shapes and/or textures and that the flexible material can be any type of material or fabric that can move and/or change shapes, including felt, cloth, plastic, or metal, to name just a few.
Microsoft's Mood Changing Rating App/Service
Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 illustrates an example environment in which a mood-actuated device can be implemented; FIG. 2 illustrates a detailed example of a mood-rating service.
In Microsoft's FIG. 2 noted above we're able to see a detailed example #200 of mood-rating service #204. In this example, the mood-rating service causes a computing device such as a smartphone (#202) to render a user interface #204 on a screen of the computing device. The device could also be a tablet, gaming device or other device.
Microsoft's illustrated user interface is configured to enable a user to rate their current mood. In various embodiments, the user interface includes a grid that enables the user to select between two opposite moods along a first axis, and two different opposite moods along a second axis that is perpendicular to the first axis. Just by way of example (and not limitation), opposite moods can include happy and sad, calm and stressed, or relaxed and excited.
In example #200, the user interface asks the user to respond to the question "how do you feel?" The user interface also includes a grid that enables the user to rate the user's current mood from negative valence (e.g., sad) to positive valence (e.g., happy) along a first axis (the x-axis in this example), and enables the user to rate the user's mood from excited to relaxed along a second axis (the y-axis in this example).
The device's controller then receives mood information from the bio sensor (FIG. 1 #102) and/or mood-rating service #104, and determines an emotional state of the user based at least in part on the mood information. The controller can determine a variety of different emotional states of the user, such as the user being happy, sad, stressed, calm, excited, bored, or angry, to name just a few.
In some embodiments, the controller may determine the emotional state of the user based on the received mood information and additional information, such as user history information or external information. For example, a certain heart rate value received from a heart rate monitor may indicate that a "normal" person is relaxed, but could indicate that a marathon runner, who generally has a lower resting heart rate, is stressed. Therefore, user history information corresponding to a specific user may enable the controller to more accurately determine the emotional state of the specific user.
Additionally, external information, such as a current temperature, may be taken into account by the controller when determining the emotional state of the user. For example, information received from a galvanic skin response monitor indicating that the user's skin is hot may be less relevant if the temperature outside is over 90 degrees.
After determining the emotional state of the user, the controller causes mood-actuated device to react based on the emotional state of the user.
Microsoft filed their patent application back in Q4 2012. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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 Mobile presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. About Posting Comments: Patently Mobile reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit any comments.