In July, Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella sent out an email to all employees to boost moral going into FY2015 titled "Bold Ambition & Our Core." Nadella told employees that "We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world." He noted that "our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation." Nadella further noted that "While today many people define mobile by devices, Microsoft defines it by experiences. We're really in the infant stages of the mobile-first world. In the next few years we will see many more new categories evolve and experiences emerge that span a variety of devices of all screen sizes." Today we present you with a new Microsoft invention relating to invisible controls on mobile devices and beyond that was published by the US Patent Office this past week. The invention relates to delivering a new way of presenting on screen controls that was designed to save precious display real estate space while providing a new user experience.
Microsoft's Patent Background
In Microsoft's patent background they present the problem that they wish to solve. In this case, Microsoft begins by describing the fact that mobile devices with small form factors provide limited screen real estate for displaying content.
In the case of touch screen devices, screen real estate is even more limited since the content must share the screen with controls for interacting with the content. For example, in order to facilitate navigation and use of a mobile application, the mobile application typically includes controls, such as buttons and menus that allow the user to navigate and manipulate content displayed in the mobile application. However, these controls occupy space that could otherwise be used for displaying content of the mobile application.
Also due to the small display size of the mobile device, users may find it difficult to perform tasks using the mobile device and/or navigate between multiple mobile applications.
For example, if a user reads a movie review on a web site and wants to rent the movie, the user may need to navigate to a movie rental website or open a movie rental application and type in the name of the movie. Alternatively, if the user is using a movie rental application and desires to perform a search related to a movie, the user may have to open a web browser and input a search query. These scenarios are time-consuming, and may require the user to go back and forth between multiple web browsers and/or applications to look for information about the movie.
Microsoft Invents Invisible Controls for Mobile Devices
Microsoft's invention generally relates to techniques of altering an operating mode of a client device such as smartphone or tablet. In one embodiment, a client device may provide an invisible control disposed around at least a portion of a border of a display of the client device as noted below in our patent figure 4 below.
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 4 we're able to see a first example of selecting an invisible control from a plurality of available invisible controls of the invisible control system. By way of example and not limitation, the user may perform a selection gesture by touching on a predetermined region (e.g., a certain location on an edge #404 of a display #406 as shown in FIG. 4) of the client device for a predetermined period of time (e.g., a half second, one second, etc.).
In response to receiving the selection gesture, the invisible control system may present a representation (e.g., a callout, a balloon, etc.) of an invisible control, such as Invisible Control #A 408 above, that may be activate upon selection.
The invisible control may include a soft button that is not visible to a user. A user may perform a selection gesture relative to at least portion of the border of the display of the client device to activate the invisible control.
For example, in response to receiving the selection gesture, the client device may change a current mode of operation associated with the client device to a new mode of operation (e.g., from a browsing mode to a search mode). For example, a gesture that would be found in a browsing mode would have the ability to pan or zoom on an item in the browser. In the search mode, the invisible control may be used to identify subject matter to be searched.
A Menu of Invisible Controls
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 8A noted below we're able to see an example of a web browser application using the invisible control system. No visible controls such as for navigating and manipulating content of the web browser application or for interacting with the web browser application are displayed on the display of the client device (smartphone). When the user wants to navigate or manipulate the content of the web browser application, the user may apply a selection gesture #804 on an edge #806 of the display of the client device.
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 8B we're able to see an example of presenting a menu of invisible controls in response to receiving a selection gesture from the user. In response to receiving the selection gesture, the invisible control system may present a menu #808 of invisible controls to the user for selection.
The menu may be a menu including text describing functions of the invisible controls, and/or a menu including graphics representing functions of the invisible controls, etc. In one embodiment, the invisible control system may present a different menu of invisible controls to the user if the user applies the selection gesture on a different edge.
Gestures & Voice Call Controls
Microsoft's patent FIGS. 7A-C noted below illustrate an example in which the user of a smartphone or tablet is using a web browser application and wants to perform a search based on some or all of the content displayed in the application. The content may include, but is not limited to, text, images, and representations of video and/or audio content.
In this example, the user may activate the invisible control by applying a selection gesture #702 on a predetermined region of the client device or the application (for example, on an edge #704 of the display #706).
Additionally or alternatively, the invisible control may be activated by voice control to Cortana such as saying "change operation mode," "search mode," "perform action A," or the like.
In other embodiments, instead of an invisible control, a visible control may be used to change an operation mode or perform a predefined action. Examples of visible controls include, without limitation, physical buttons of the client device, capacitive or other touch sensitive controls (e.g., disposed around a border of a housing or bezel of the client device), and/or soft buttons or icons displayed on the display of the client device.
In the example of FIG. 7A, a visible control button could be added to the browser (e.g., next to the home or print icons in the ribbon) or the "Live Search" box could function as a visible control that, when selected by the user, causes the client device to enter a search mode.
In response to receiving the selection gesture or voice command, the invisible control system may disable or freeze interaction with some or all of content displayed in the display of the client device. For example, the invisible control system may prevent the object from panning, scrolling, and/or zooming.
Additionally or alternatively, in response to receiving the selection gesture, the invisible control system may disable or freeze interaction with the application and/or corresponding content served in the application.
Additionally or alternatively, the invisible control system may disable one or more hyperlinks, radio buttons, and/or interactive fields of some or all of the content displayed in the display of the client device.
Additionally or alternatively, the invisible control system may change a current mode of operation (e.g., a mode that allows the user to move, resize and/or zoom, etc.) to a new mode of operation (e.g., a search mode) configured to allow the user to identify content to be searched. For example, in the search mode, the user may be allowed to circle, highlight, overlap, or otherwise gesture to identify subject matter to be searched.
The user may also be allowed to enter a textual query in a search box and/or enter a voice query via a microphone of the client device.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 noted below illustrates an example environment including an example invisible control system of a client device.
Microsoft notes that the client device taking advantage of this invention could apply to a wide range of device types. Specifically, Microsoft mention the following devices: a personal computer, a notebook or portable computer, a handheld device, a netbook, an Internet appliance, a portable reading device, an electronic book reader device, a tablet or slate computer, a television, a set-top box, a game console, a mobile device (e.g., a mobile phone, a personal digital assistant, a smart phone, etc.), a media player, etc. or a combination thereof.
The invisible control system #106 described in Microsoft's patent application may be particularly useful for client devices having limited screen sizes, such as mobile devices. However, the invisible control system is not limited to mobile devices and may be used with any client device. For example, the client device may be a gaming device with a camera or other motion detection interface such as an Xbox gaming console configured with a Kinect motion detection system, both available from Microsoft Corporation of Redmond Wash. It may also be a part of a projector on television system.
Microsoft's patent application that came to light last week originally filed their patent application back in Q3 2011. It would appear this might have been an acquired patent as three of the engineers are from Beijing China and that the patent makes reference to a "National Stage of International Application." Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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