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Microsoft Seeks 1-Click(er) Patent

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the all-your-clicks-are-belong-to-us dept.

Education 86

theodp writes "Assuming things go patent reformer Microsoft's way, answering multiple choice, true/false, or yes/no questions in a classroom could soon constitute patent infringement. Microsoft's just-published patent application for its Adaptive Clicker Technique describes how 'multiple different types of clickers' can be used by students to answer questions posed by teachers. The interaction provided by its 'invention', explains Microsoft, 'increases attention and enhances learning.' Microsoft's Interactive Classroom Add-In for Office (video) provides polling features that allow students to 'answer and respond through their individual OneNote notebooks, hand-held clickers, or computers, and the results display in the [PowerPoint] presentation.' So, did Bill Gates mention to Oprah that the education revolution will be patented?"

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86 comments

Don't forget to read the claims (2)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34528998)

Claim 1: A computer-implemented process for allowing different types of clicker devices to be used in a personal response system, comprising:

receiving inputs from more than one type of clicker device;

formatting the inputs from the more than one type of clicker device with at least one clicker adapter for the type of clicker device to adapt the inputs from the more than one type of clicker device to a common single polling controller;

processing the adapted inputs from the clicker adapters with the polling controller to interface the adapted inputs with a personal response system software application to allow user polling data to be obtained,

wherein the receiving, formatting and processing are performed by at least one processor.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (1)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529142)

If the USPTO suffers a complete lack of its normal idiocy and grants the patent rationally, they'd grant it for clicker devices used in conjunction with Microsoft Office and no further. And the proprietor of the Alternate Destination will announce a cooling trend and the opening of a ski resort in Malebolge.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (1)

jappleng (1805148) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530750)

But you know they don't have any sense of intelligence over at the USPO so they will once again grant this patent as "Universal" and research around the world will now have to list "do not select me" as one of their options to avoid patent infringement. IMO I hope this gets passed and like 50 other blatantly obvious to life patents so there could be even more material to add to a future lawsuit against the patent system so it can either be destroyed or rebooted for modern day use once and for all.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529144)

Show's Host: Boy, That last clip sure seemed "innovative", [Applaud Light Flashes]
but will it oust the Amazon 1-Click?

Who will be the winner of the most absurd patent?

Audience, You Decide! Take out your buzzers and Vote Now.

Home viewers call or send a text to 1-800-555-8008 to vote for Microsoft, or 1-800-555-5413 to vote for Amazon.
Or, place your vote online a our website [...]

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529316)

Show's Host: Boy, That last clip sure seemed "innovative", [Applaud Light Flashes]
but will it oust the Amazon 1-Click?

Who will be the winner of the most absurd patent?

Audience, You Decide! Take out your buzzers and Vote Now.

MiB: Mr Host?

My Host: Yes?

MiB: You've been served for violating the patent in question with your clickers! [throws papers, walks off stage]

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529516)

Two words: Frank Luntz.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529668)

Having read the patent app, I'd think websites like Digg, where people vote on items with mice, trackballs, trackpads, microwave pens, stylus, cellphones, etc. might have to stop and send Microsoft money.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (4, Interesting)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530158)

would a slashdot poll be an example of prior art?

Or even who wants to be a millionaire ask the audience.

The only positive about software patents such as this. Is as an example to show European politicians why we don't want software patents in Europe.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (4, Interesting)

drmofe (523606) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529752)

Wow. I may actually have prior art on this. I implemented such a system for my PhD thesis in 1990.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (4, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529856)

You can submit your prior art within 2 months of the application's publication date to the USPTO under 37 CFR 1.99 [uspto.gov] . There is a fee of $180 associated with doing so (covering up to 10 references submitted), and you have to make sure you jump through all the hoops that the regulation requires (e.g., you're not allowed to explain the relevance of your prior art, and you have to serve the applicant with a copy of your submission).

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34531902)

Or just send a copy to the applicant (inventor or attorney). If it really is prior art, they must disclose it to USPTO.

You have no control of the process (heck, they could claim they never got it), but it is cheap and easy.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (1)

UBfusion (1303959) | more than 3 years ago | (#34532258)

He's not alone, I am betting at least 10 companies producing clickers will make such submissions. We're using here a 2-year old clicker system by Hitachi, featuring both a standalone app and a PowerPoint plugin. I skimmed the patent and I did not see any radical difference in use from what our system does, except from the "different types of clicker devices" part, which might be interpreted as Office getting embedded drivers for the different brands of clickers available on the market, thus making custom clicker apps obsolete.

Could it be the case that Microsoft suddenly decided to control all third parties using Office plugins (Oracle, Matlab, Mathcad, Labview and a myriad others) in a way similar to the Apple App Store?

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34532300)

You can submit your prior art within 2 months of the application's publication date to the USPTO under 37 CFR 1.99 [uspto.gov] . There is a fee of $180 associated with doing so (covering up to 10 references submitted), and you have to make sure you jump through all the hoops that the regulation requires (e.g., you're not allowed to explain the relevance of your prior art, and you have to serve the applicant with a copy of your submission).

Wow, that's expensive for indivduals to do. How about emailing (and snail mailing) it to Microsoft's legal department and cc: the USPTO and a few other government officials? It's not official but could really shoot down the "we weren't aware of that prior art" excuse

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (1)

Kashgarinn (1036758) | more than 3 years ago | (#34532680)

so prior art is only prior art if someone payed the patent office basically what comes down to being bribe money to look at it?

Talk about a stupid system which should be thrown out.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (2)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34533088)

The fee is to prevent a third party from submitting thousands of documents to the USPTO regarding an application, which would create an expense not covered by fees and which would likely cause delays in prosecution of the application. I'm sure you don't want actual tax dollars covering the operational costs of the USPTO, do you?

Now, an applicant does have a duty to disclose documents pertinent to the patentability of their invention. You could conceivably send them the documents and hope that they submit them to the USPTO, but that's not a guarantee that the documents would be considered.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (3, Interesting)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 3 years ago | (#34532006)

In 1977/78, I worked on a system called PEAC. It was developed for CTW (Childrens Television Workshop), and used for Sesame Street production (among other programs).

A number of clicker boxes were plugged into a charging/syncing station. All of the clickers could be synchronized by a single button press. They were then disseminated into an audience. Both demographic questions (are you male/female, what is your age, etc.) were collected, and then polling data for the program was collected (like/dislike on a scale of 1 to 5, for example).

Afterwards, the clickers were put back into the syncing station, and the data was transferred to an Apple ][. If the material was sourced from a video tape, a secondary audio channel was written to the tape, with time marks.

The time marks were fed into the Apple ][ audio controller, and the floppy based demographic and polling data was then set up to produce interactive cross-tabulations, color swash (called "mondrian" analysis), and other investigative approaches. The bulk of the analysis software was written in Apple ][ Integer BASIC, along with machine code routines for actually performing the cross tabulation.

The Apple ][ was chosen because it supported "color" graphics, audio input, and floppy discs.

The system was delivered in 1977/78.

I don't know when it was decommissioned. But, I imagine it wasn't unique (well, the time synchronization made the "user interface" simple -- just fast forward, rewind and play on the video tape deck! The audio channel was composed of many short independent "files", each recording a time-stamp; and, I have never seen the "mondrian" style display for analysis again, but maybe it was a bust). But the patent is deliberatly vague about that end of things, anyway.

Now, honestly, we would have liked to use RF, infrared, or "mobile device" clickers. Instead, we had to develop our own stand-alone clicker device (and, honestly, I don't know if you can run 30 IR clickers in a classroom at the same time!). RF would have been an option -- but we put storage into each clicker, and synchronized the lot in the charging station. But, the need for clicker synchronization was a weak point, and we recognized that (back then). We could have used low frequency FM (47Mhz required a license, and cell and "wifi" didn't exist). So, low power 88Mhz was an option. Still, not as reliable as the hard-sync approach.

Another problem (back then) was that available AFFORDABLE computers would have been hard-pressed to reliably support 30 concurrent clickers. We would also have needed to add a processing layer in to support that. With a sync box, each clicker could be read out and converted to floppy in turn.

We did think of it. It was documented. Question is, does the paper from back then even exist? We never considered it patentable material.

Re:Don't forget to read the claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34535266)

I invite them to patent this. I have prior art from 1988, and would just love to see them try.

Voting machines of all types too. (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542008)

Claim 1: A computer-implemented process for allowing different types of clicker devices to be used in a personal response system, comprising:

receiving inputs from more than one type of clicker device;

....snip.....

This is a blatant attempt to corner the voting machine business.

In that a computer is a mechanism then they are attempting to patent voting machines.... even the old mechanical ones where you pulled levers. The levers clicked...

old tech (2)

ArgumentBoy (669152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529000)

goodness. i'm teaching a large lecture class and we already do this. i think it's been going on, on a large scale, for 5-10 years. this doesn't matter? seriously?

Re:old tech (3, Interesting)

queequeg1 (180099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529012)

Has your class been doing this with more than one type of clicker device? When I initially read the summary, I thought that there was tons of prior art. Haven't game shows been using clicker techology for years to poll what the audience things ("Who Wants to be Millionaire?" for example). The distinguishing feature here might be more than one type of clicker. I'm not sure where that distinction would come in handy, however. Any ideas?

Re:old tech (3, Informative)

ArgumentBoy (669152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529078)

yes. some kids use laptops, some use smartphones, and some use (several models of) dedicated clickers.

Re:old tech (1)

cinderellamanson (1850702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529168)

Regardless, this functionality is better provided for by an international standards body rather than the goddamned fucking patent office.

Re:old tech (3, Informative)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529214)

Gee. It sounds like you're describing pollanywhere.com [pollanywhere.com] . I've been using them this year in my classroom in lieu of clickers but judging from the patent claim, Microsoft claims to have invented what they're already doing.

Re:old tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529794)

At the University of Minnesota Duluth, they've been using (mostly for freshmen classes) "Clickers" from TurningPoint.

Re:old tech (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34531676)

Keyboard, mouse, game controllers, touch screens, graphic tablets, even the individual keyboard can be deemed as individual devices (who can forget ctrl alt del as the default control keys for windows). So basically a greed driven attempt to patent what already exists because no one else has attempted to patent it yet.

Re:old tech (1)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529396)

goodness. i'm teaching a large lecture class and we already do this. i think it's been going on, on a large scale, for 5-10 years. this doesn't matter? seriously?

While it specifically mentions integrating with Microsoft technology (e.g. OneNote), I wonder if it is similar enough to technology used in game shows, or even Congress, for voting.

Prior art?

My guess without reading the article... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529014)

My guess is that theodp has grossly over simplified what the patent is really about and the summary is nothing but a troll. Welcome to Slashdot.

Re:My guess without reading the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529284)

Awe man! I was going to impotently rage against the machine here on Slashdot and get modd'ed up in the process thereby boosting my pathetic ego.

Thank a lot stupid AC!

Re:My guess without reading the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34530452)

Maybe you would do better if you used proper grammar.

Re:My guess without reading the article... (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529488)

My guess is that theodp has grossly over simplified what the patent is really about and the summary is nothing but a troll.

We have a winner!

For those of you just joining always remember that the primary troll key words used on slashdot are "Patent", "Microsoft", "Apple", "iPhone", and "iOS" (in no particular order). Any story featuring any one of those words has an 88% likelihood of being a troll. If the story mentions two of them it's 94%, and if three or more of the keywords appear it is guaranteed 100% the submitter is a troll.

Re:My guess without reading the article... (1)

wmac (1107843) | more than 3 years ago | (#34531192)

Idiot me. I was going to give you +funny, the stupid mouse clicked on overrated. I am sorry.

Re:My guess without reading the article... (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#34531282)

It's the thought that counts. :)

Re:My guess without reading the article... (1)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 3 years ago | (#34533882)

Your post meets those criteria. Does that make you a troll? :-)

As far as I can tell, (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529028)

This is new functionality. The claim to fame here is using multiple input devices, not just one. If it were just one, I'm sure iClicker would already have a patent on it. Does anyone have examples of an application where students can answer through iClickers, OneNote, etc. at the same time to answer a prompt thrown by a professor in an auditorium?

Re:As far as I can tell, (2)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529058)

http://theopinion.in/tamil-nadu-student-wins-microsoft-imagine-cup-2010-finals-amongst-85000-students-across-india/

Found this... its sort of like that.

Re:As far as I can tell, (2)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529090)

So using my Mouse Click and the Touch Screen on the PC in the same APP is going to be in breach of this patent?

AFAIK, using a mouse button and a touch screen are different types of pointer devices.
Move the mouse, click.
Swipe the screen and touch it, click.

Pah. Bah Humbug.

Re:As far as I can tell, (2)

camperslo (704715) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529716)

Pre-iMac Macs had an interface buss called ADB (Apple Desktop Buss). One could string multiple input devices together and use them at the same time. Support went beyond mice, keyboards, trackpads, game controllers, drawing tablets etc. A third party product called ADBI/O used the ADB to interface external hardware through the ADB. It could interact with custom Apps or simple scripts (Apple Script). The ADBI/O could be support multiple contact closure inputs and do A/D conversion of voltages (anything that could be converter to a voltage) as well. Between the two, many types of inputs were possible. (It also could provide outputs, good for control or status indicators). With simple electronics one might detect specific sounds from dog whistles tuned to different frequencies (or use an old ultrasonic TV remote like the type Zenith used in the 60's). One could use hardware with radio signals, like a garage door controller, or attach solar cells with different colored filers, so flashlights with different filters could be used for different functions or by different people. One might use microwave or light-beam interruption proximity detectors to tell when someone reaches a certain point, or moves a hand to actuate a particular sensor. Certainly any existing technology that could provide a contact closure could be used for input. Put a butt-switch in a chair, measure temperature, windspeed, sense a childs wet pants, use a float in a tank... Homemade input sensors could use something as simple as magnets and magnetic reed switches. Use a foot switch if you like, or connect one of those clap-on/clap-off devices through a simple interface. Various types of infra-red sensors could be used. Some computers had infrared sensors built in. Many different styles of remotes are possible.

Scripts working between apps or machines are nothing new, so having more than one or various types involved is an obvious use. Using anything you've ever seen clickable on a web page as input is an obvious possibility which would certainly support many different varieties of question response mode, style or appearance. Having various types of input styles certainly predates web software. Apples FileMaker database product goes way back (Apple bought it in early days). A great variety of educational apps and styles were seen with the Apple Hypercard product, which supported web-like linking between "stacks" although it wasn't across a net at that time. However the ability to tie multiple things made by different people together was there. Since users created those hypercard stacks, and endless variety of educational inputs and outputs was possible. If you wanted a "moo" or picture of a bottle of milk when you clicked on a cows tit, no problem.

There used to be a mailing list for ADBI/O user discussion groups. I'm not sure if archives are out there somewhere. The product was discontinued after Apple went USB. It had seen use in a great variety of applications from industrial, to sales / museum kiosk interactivity, to education.

With the scriptability of Applications within Mac OS, there was no requirement to have custom apps to be able to use different types of input. The OS and third-party apps also supported a wide variety of things to aid interface with people having various types and degree of disabilities. Speech recognition tied to scripting was supported too. Even in the 90's it was easy to set Mac OS so you could say "computer show me porn" and have a slideshow start.

Using various types of clickers as input for standard or custom software is nothing new. Just ask the person doing the weather at your local tv station. (I suspect Steve Jobs has a clicker or two in use during those great keynote presentations

It's really absurd that an OS / app / platform developer should be able to patent the things users come up with as uses for computers. I do think more tools for user app creativity should be provided. What will get kids to take an early interest in programming. Imagine a simple web-enabled mostly graphically built Cocoa Hypercard. With a touch interface everyone from education to business could go nuts with it. And of course provide users access to sharing what they create.

I think a developer that provides some well integrated input options into a product might have a market advantage, but it shouldn't be patentable since there's so much prior art.

Re:As far as I can tell, (1)

number11 (129686) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529916)

The claim to fame here is using multiple input devices, not just one. If it were just one, I'm sure iClicker would already have a patent on it. Does anyone have examples of an application where students can answer through iClickers, OneNote, etc. at the same time to answer a prompt thrown by a professor in an auditorium?

At least a decade ago, maybe longer, I participated in large (100 or more members, usually in a hotel convention room) market research focus groups that used similar technology. Each audience member had a keypad, they connected by radio with a base station. "Next slide.. this depicts a new product, underwear made of flavored yoghurt.. press 1 if you want some today, press 2 if you would be interested in hearing more, press 3 if you think it's ok for other people but not for you, press 4 if you think it's a stupid idea." Long pause.. "just a moment, we're tallying the results, it looks like one person didn't register a choice.." etc.

It was clearly off-the-shelf technology. Don't remember what the brand name on the boxes was, though.

There is an example on every Slashdot homepage (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530058)

"This is new functionality. The claim to fame here is using multiple input devices, not just one."

It is called the Slashdot Poll. Some people use computers with Linux, some Windows, some OS X, and others use "phones" running iOS or Android. Some use mouse, some use trackballs, some use touchscreens, etc.. In some cases Opera is used, in others Firefox, Chrome, or even IE in a pinch. It doesn't matter if students use it in an auditorium with professors, or geeks use it to waste time, for the same reason that patenting a car and qualifying the patent as "used by professors to dodge oncoming traffic" is meaningless.

A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (3, Interesting)

teambpsi (307527) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529042)

In Minnesota an in classroom system called DISCOURSE had this in the early 90's -- should be an easy patent to knock down.

Re:A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529134)

No, it probably had one kind of clicker. This is a patent on allowing more than one kind of device to send the signal that the base station receives. That's an incredible innovation. That's why TVs compatible with universal remotes were patented. Imagine the technological innovation that had to go into televisions to allow them to properly respond to signals coming from multiple different types of devices!

Re:A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (1)

petteyg359 (1847514) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529598)

Last time I checked, universal remotes were "universal" because they supported practically any device, not because practically any device supported them. That little button combination you push to program the remote makes it send the right signal so the TV understands what you're telling it to do.

It is generally more practical to design a controller that can control many things than to design a device that can be controlled by many things, when there is no single standard for communication. There are many C++ compilers, and they can target many types of CPUs. Designing the CPU to support many different types of code would be horribly inefficient and expensive.

Re:A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530024)

Leonard: For God's sake, Sheldon, do I have to hold up a sarcasm sign every time I open my mouth?
Sheldon: You have a sarcasm sign?
-- The Big Bang Theory

Re:A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34531422)

It is generally more practical to design a controller that can control many things than to design a device that can be controlled by many things

Wait, what? Many motherboards accepts several different CPUs. The, USB, parallel port, IDE, PCI & ISA connections on the motherboard all accept multiple kinds of devices that can provide input for your computer.

Microsoft isn't inventing multiple clickers that can adapt themselves "when there is no single standard for communication". MS is patenting using more than one type of input device (clicker) at once to provide input to a live updated poll.

Claims:

1. A computer-implemented process for allowing different types of clicker devices to be used in a personal response system, comprising:receiving inputs from more than one type of clicker device;formatting the inputs from the more than one type of clicker device with at least one clicker adapter for the type of clicker device to adapt the inputs from the more than one type of clicker device to a common single polling controller;processing the adapted inputs from the clicker adapters with the polling controller to interface the adapted inputs with a personal response system software application to allow user polling data to be obtained, wherein the receiving, formatting and processing are performed by at least one processor.

2. The computer-implemented process of claim 1 wherein one type of clicker device is a virtual clicker device comprising a computing device and a software application that lets the computing device act as a clicker device.

3. The computer-implemented process of claim 1, wherein one type of clicker device is a radio frequency clicker device.

4. The computer-implemented process of claim 1, wherein one type of clicker device is an infrared clicker device.

5. The computer-implemented process of claim 1, wherein one type of clicker device is implemented on a mobile device.

( More claims about processing the input from multiple clickers via hardware or software to aggregate feedback for the poll )

A simple website poll should be prior art since some people can use mice, track-balls, joysticks, keyboards, mousekeys (numpad mouse control), etc, to register their votes at once, in real time, for a "personal response system" AKA: online web survey.

Now, to me this X + "multiple types of [input devices]" (clicker is an input device) is also very obvious since I am typing this right now using Synergy [synergy-foss.org] . Normally I just use one keyboard and trackball to control all of my PCs, but sometimes I have someone using the computer next to me with it's own keyboard and mouse. When they ask: "Oh, can you put in your password", or, "What's the word for ____" or "Help me find _____". I just move my mouse around the room and onto that screen and control the PC for them. We can both use our own pointer devices and keyboards at the same time to control that one computer.

It's also very obvious to me since I have a trackball, a mouse, and a wireless presentation clicker (with joystick for a mouse) all connected to the same PC. All of these devices control any one of my computers, and when controlling a computer via Synergy the other mice/keyboards connected to the PCs can still control the computer.

Additionally: My satellite set-top box is a "dual" receiver. It features two remotes, and two separate TVs can be connected at once (watching different channels) . The second TV (not HD) can be located in another room, and its remote sends commands to the main receiver via radio (wireless, not IR).

Now, I don't have a standard def TV to connect to it, so I put the receiver into "single mode".
In singe mode both remotes can change the channel that the single TV is displaying.

I also use LIRC to control my TV via my computers ( and all of their many different connected input devices), and to control my computers via any of the IR TV remotes I have.

Hell, come to think of it, I sometimes use my phone to control my computers, TVs & DVR too.

I have more than one type of "clicker" for my TV... One that works anywhere in the house, and one that must flash IR light into the receiver, one as an app on my phone, one as a virtual remote on my PC. I have several types of input devices for each of my computers as well.

"Application of X, now with Multiple Inputs," is the very definition of obvious when so many input devices can operate a so many different devices today.

"Web Poll, now with dedicated clickers for classroom use" is also obvious since "audience poll w/ dedicated clicker, now with Web poll + text message voting" has been done to death on TV reality shows.

What MS is going after is the ability to assign a UID to each input device and count them as separate user inputs... I do this as well with my input devices when I play split screen games on my computer -- each player is assigned input device(s) and a unique ID (player 1, player 2 etc).

The problem is that patent examiners have to prove "obviousness" via finding prior art, and when you submit a patent application there may not be prior art on file because many others may have thought the idea so f'ing obvious they didn't waste money on a patent application.

The multiple device idea is a shadow puppet (1)

CodeShark (17400) | more than 3 years ago | (#34535392)

Let's see, so if I use an IR mouse, my friend uses a bluetooth driven mouse, and another friend uses the touch screen on his mobile device. One person is networked in via Cat5, etc. All to select "B" as the answer to a question, and the web server collects the data and syncs it up to produce a right/wrong poll for the teacher.

Exactly what part of the mouse, the bluetooth, the touch screen, or the network, the web server, or the education application software (which can be copyrighted but not patented) does Microsoft claim to have invented? Or even a business model? (sorry, Blackboard et. al have something along those lines first, for all the good it will do them)....

So, if the biggest bully in the neighborhood tells you that he means you no harm, do you silently give in and give him the keys to not only your house, your car, but also to your kid's online educational future?

I think not.

Re:A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (1)

fonos (847221) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530950)

In some lectures at UW-Madison we're required to use a clicker system to answer question. We can use a dedicated clicker, our smartphones, or our laptops to use as a "clicker". Prior art.

Re:A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529152)

In Minnesota an in classroom system called DISCOURSE had this in the early 90's -- should be an easy patent to knock down.

Yeah. Easy if you have more and better lawyers than Microsoft.

Re:A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529266)

I don't understand. Schools don't have that much money to defend themselves from patent suits, so why would it be easy to knock this patent down? If your post would have said, "given tons of money, should be an easy patent to knock down," then that would make more sense.

Re:A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529530)

Yet, it will probably be granted despite this.

Shoot, I recall some C64 software from the mid 80's that could probably trump stomp this patent into the ground.

Doesn't matter though. PTO is bought and paid for, with their head up their ass to boot. PTO is no longer serves the statement it claims.

Re:A system called DISCOURSE had this in the 90's (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530392)

In Minnesota an in classroom system called DISCOURSE had this in the early 90's -- should be an easy patent to knock down.

Unfortunately probably not since the PTO is finding increasingly insignificant differences are significant. When all you've got is a hammer everything begins to look like a nail.

---

The patent system. The whole edifice is based on handwaving.

Some quick research let me find this... (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529050)

https://www.microsoft.com/multipoint/mouse-sdk/

"Windows MultiPoint Mouse Software Development Kit (SDK) gives education publishers the ability to build interactive applications that allow up to 25 students, each with their own mouse, to simultaneously engage on a single PC. "

Its a freely downloadable SDK. Should we be worried?

Re:Some quick research let me find this... (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529448)

Wonder how that works? Does it just average what direction all the difference mice are going, then move the cursor in that average direction [so everybody gets a vote on where the cursor should go]?

Re:Some quick research let me find this... (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530932)

Wonder how that works? Does it just average what direction all the difference mice are going, then move the cursor in that average direction [so everybody gets a vote on where the cursor should go]?

Congratulations! You just invented the digital Ouija Board!

America's Funniest Home Videos (2)

BadAndyJ (963176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529080)

OK, so how does this patent differ from what America's Funniest Home Videos did back in the 80s? Each audience member had a clicker (so there was more than one) and made a simple selection based on 3 choices. The information was aggregated and a prize was given. I really don't see why anyone would allow MS's patent on this.

Re:America's Funniest Home Videos (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529170)

Yeah, and today's reality shows do the same thing, but also allow voting via text message, telephone and/or website (where you actually use a mouse as a clicker on the latter).

Info on previous swpat problems for education (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529128)

Education, despite looking like a big institution, is affected just as hard as small companies and individuals.

gates institute (1, Offtopic)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529162)

Gates is in education to direct money. The latest study from the gates institute is that adolescent perform better on tests if they like their teachers. This is exactly what some in education want to hear as it minimizes objective measurements like experience, education, and certification and maximizes non-objective measures like "relationship". Although the study attempts to relate adolescent random emotions to thing like classroom control, the reality is that ineffective teacher can often maintains control by matching the workload to the students expectation, while the effective teacher often sacrifices some classroom control to maximize the workload and learning of the students. It is also true that students that are going to do well on tests are also those that have good classroom habits, and require little or no external control.

Of couse as Gates is able to keep his money, he is able to direct it towards personal projects. One seems to be destroying the profession of teaching and replacing it with an elite corps of of recently post-adolescents that are paid in forgiveness of student loans rather than a professional rate of pay. This of course will minimize taxes, and consequently minimize the chances that we will have a strict inheritance tax. Gates, of course has no concern that urban public education will be decimated as he, and the foreseeable generations of his offspring, will never have to be educated in such an environment.

Re:gates institute (-1, Offtopic)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529208)

and why is urban PUBLIC education such a goal?

One of the first things you learn as an engineer is to first define your goal as broadly as possible. The 'how' always comes later... and must remain as flexibly as possible.

The single biggest problem with education is the goal is not 'to educate children'. A variety of people have already determined the 'how'... no matter if it doesn't actually improve the greater goal of educating kids.

- it must be a public system. no voucher, no school choice
- minimize segregation of kids (male/female/disabled/ability/class/culture) ...

PowerPoint? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529242)

Compared to Keynote, PowerPoint looks like something that has not been updated since 1995.

Re:PowerPoint? (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530036)

Shhhh. Or Microsoft will patent that.

Opt out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529276)

Since I can't effect any change on the systems in place I'm more than happy the live my life refusing to believe in any property that I can't kick. So no IP for me ( or them in my world ) As and when I do something that doesn't fit with the 'real world' rules they can come and lock me up for as long as they feel it will suit the public good. In the mean time, how the hell do you opt out of any microsoft (or mac or US government or IP or think of the children/terrorist) stories. Personal preferences seem broken. I want a keyword filter or something.

What went wrong? (1)

PyRoNeRd (179292) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529352)

I thought Apple was the evil one this day and age and Microsoft was the good boy. ^^

Re:What went wrong? (1)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529398)

Everybody sucks. Welcome to the world of business.

We were required to buy them for class (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529356)

Then the professor didnt ever use it. No refunds, YAY!

Corporate Stupidism (tm) (1)

oakwine (1709682) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529450)

Patent attempt is a waste of money, but the "zeal" and "company loyalty" demonstrated by wasting time and money while increasing hatred for Microsoft will undoubtedly get someone a nice promotion. This is the way corporations work ... and the military, educational establishments, and governments.

Evil is as Evil Does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34529464)

More Evil from Bill Gates, Microsux and Fiends.
Software patents should be banished.
Patents on life should be banished.
Virtually all patents should be banished.
Any granted patents and copyrights should expire in the original time set out.

A button? (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529520)

So they want to patent a button/switch in effect. Oh man: an invention that registers when someone pushes it. Or am i seeing this wrong?

Take it a bit farther (1)

Bit101 (1228382) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529654)

Maybe if they patent "clickers using student-generated response" I could avoid taking tests all together.

70's game show & home version (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34529866)

There was a game show in the 70's where the contestants, rather than pushing a button on the lectern to indicate a desire to answer a question, pushed a button on a hand-held device. I don't recall the name of the show, and I don't even remember whether the hand-held device was "electronic" (i.e. SPST switch). But the home version (the board game) came with metal mechanical clickers -- a metal half-shell with a metal reed extending over the shell. Pushing down on the reed made a sound similar to X-Wing laser blasts (which were created by tapping telephone pole guy wires).

The Abstract (2, Informative)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530318)

For those of you who are too lazy to click on the link for the abstract:

An adaptive clicker technique is described that provides a standardized polling control and a registration system to support mixed types of clickers and integrate the polling data. One embodiment of the adaptive clicker technique operates as follows. User inputs from more than one type of clicker device (e.g., personal interactive response system device) are received. The inputs from the more than one type of clicker device are formatted with a clicker adapter for each type of clicker to adapt user inputs to a common polling controller. The adapted inputs are then processed with the common polling controller to interface the adapted inputs with a personal response system software application to allow user polling data to be collected and assessed.

So no, there is no prior art as far as I can tell. This is like a middle-man approach so that a variety of inputs can be used in any setting such as a classroom. I presume this means a student could respond to a question via text message, laptop running One Note, a tablet running Chrome, an iPad app, or a generic clicker device hooked up to who-knows-what, and all the data is aggregated together.

The advantage being twofold: the administrator (teacher) doesn't have to somehow write code for 10 different inputs, and the students don't have to standardize on one input device.

Why patent it? Because Microsoft has to. If they don't, then someone else will and they could waste time and money in courts over it. That's why Microsoft and others are pushing for patent reform.

Re:The Abstract (1)

gozar (39392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34531246)

As someone mentioned before, polleverywhere.com has been doing this since it's inception, allowing votes by web or SMS, and now you can even vote by Twitter.

Most of the student response systems that have been sold in the last couple of years allow you to use multiple devices to vote, this really isn't a new idea.

Re:The Abstract (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 3 years ago | (#34531320)

But does it then integrate the poll results back into a PowerPoint or OneNote object, live while the poll is being conducted?

Re:The Abstract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34535544)

Yes

Re:The Abstract (1)

Shompol (1690084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34535848)

In a similarly revolutionary breakthrough, an Australian inventor patented a "circular transportation facilitation device" [newscientist.com] . This invention alone will rocket our civilization into the bronze age and beyond.

Now thanks to Microsoft's ingenuity, we can finally embrace the technological advances of the 80's. Patent royalty is a small price to pay for such a breakthrough. I just wish they invent computer soon, so we don't have to mess with these "clicker devices"...

Re:The Abstract (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 3 years ago | (#34537342)

All the more reason why you and others might be in favor of Microsoft's attempt to reform the patent system.

They don't like it either.

And if you think Microsoft is the only company patenting everything they do left-and-right, think again. IBM started the trend a long time ago, and companies like Google and Apple are right up there with Microsoft.

Hyperbole much? (1)

matunos (1587263) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530342)

I haven't been in a classroom for a while, but when I took tests, I don't remember using a clicker, a tablet or a laptop, and I don't remember it updating any PowerPoint presentations.

K-State has had this in Physics courses (1)

bamwham (1211702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530394)

I saw this idea in Physics classes at K-state. It uses any device which has a web browser (smart phone, pda, laptop, etc). I think it was called In-class or something like that. It was very bare bones and basic, but also very useful for what they wanted. The research seems to show an improvement in the students that use it. It even had some functionality not mentioned in this patent such as allowing for groups of students to pool their answers and then reevaluate based on what their group had answered.

Clearly not patentable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34530666)

This is clearly not patentable.

I have been taking machine graded (optical) multiple choice tests since the 60's, there must be hundreds of clear cases of prior art. For example the "radio buttons" that have existed since windows 1.0. Also remote control "clickers" have also been around for almost that long. Even though this is "computer" related does not make it patentable since that extension of an existing process should be considered "obvious" by everyone.

After reading the claims: (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34530682)

There is firm prior art.

Jeopardy!

Prior art back in 1982 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34530824)

In Disney world of all places. From http://allears.net/tp/ep/ccore.htm [allears.net]

Now, one thing that (at the time) was VERY cool was the Epcot Poll at the Electronic Forum that opened on December 23, 1982. Guests entered the 175-seat Future Choice theater and watched short films about current events. After the watching the clips, viewers could take part in a poll and vote by pressing one of 5 buttons marked A through E on their seat armrests. The cool thing was that the results were instantly tabulated. Topics ranged from people's thoughts about nuclear energy, to our most important freedoms, etc.

One click - wrong mouse - why MS? (1)

Kvasio (127200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34531028)

If God wanted Microsoft to have 1-click patent, why he let them use mouse with more than one button?

goodluckwiththat (1)

scurvyj (1158787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34531298)

We need a 'goodluckwiththat' tag on this article!

Microsoft = Fuckhole with a cactus. (1)

dogzdik (1700552) | more than 3 years ago | (#34532546)

After a week of fighting with a bank staffed with people who are sooooooo fucking stupid that they think 10 minutes of answering machine robots is better than just answering the phone in the first place.....

.

And not including such stupid information as the account numbers of the organisations and people that the money has come from or gone too in their spread sheets... because date, amount and withdrawl or deposit is deemed sufficient....

.

Merely mentioning these fucking arseholes at Microsoft and their shit for brains corporate moron bullshit makes me want to jump the counter and start smashing heads through desks.....

.

Fuck I hope these pilled out space cadets just fucking die - you know like by dropping the hair dryer in the bath or something.

.

They as people and their corporate crap are not the sort of things I want in my world.

.

DO IT FAGGOT!!! (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34532978)

(Calm down, this is what I refer to [encycloped...matica.com] ) :-D :-D :-D

Automated and multiple choice "tests" are bane and cancer of education process. If schools will be prevented from using them, students would have to actually solve problems, and teachers will have to ask meaningful questions instead of inventing plausible but wrong answers to trick students into revealing how little they understand.

not inteneded for testing (1)

j-beda (85386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34534294)

Generally these sorts of "clicker" activities are not designed for testing (though of course they could be used for that purpose). Rather they are an attempt to engage to audience in some participatory activities that from an educational standpoint are hoping to encourage the participant to be in a more "active learning" mode rather than the "passive learning" mode that is common in a lecture situation.

Generally speaking, humans learn more efficiently when they actively participate in activities that incorporate newly desired knowledge into their existing frameworks. Thus the popularity among educators of "project based learning", "workshop" models of instruction and other hands-on types of programs. These types of programs however tend to scale linearly - twice as many students require twice as many instructors and other resources. A lecture format however scales fairly nicely - adding more students is as easy as adding more seats - instructor costs are constant since lecturing to 5 students is "no different" than lecturing to 5 thousand (for some values of "no different").

People who do learn a lot in a lecture do seem to be more actively involved in the lecture compared to those who learn less. They think about what is being discussed, they ask questions of the instructor, or their classmates, or just themselves about the material. They anticipate the future direction of the lecture and consider the implications of the material. All of these activities seem to correlate with increased retention and understanding. Thus the desire among instructors to assist more students in a lecture class to get into and remain in this more active mental mode. Specifically including these types of internal mental processes in the actual lecture material is one way ("With this new idea we just discussed, you might think that things would work like blah, but actually they work like bleck"). What seems to be even more effective is to encourage introspection ("What do you think will happen in this situation? Why?") and encourage collaboration ("What do the people around you think? Why?") It is difficult however to get students in a large group to all participate in these activities, so getting them to have some personal emotional investment in the outcome of the activities can be used as well ("Raise your hand if you think blah. How about bleck?")

Using a clicker type of device is thought to be even more effective to encourage student participation and "buy-in" compared to raising hands or voting ABC cards. Clickers can allow for completely anonymous reporting, or alternatively individual tracking of individual responses. It can allow presentation in graphical or numerical format in real-time of the student responses which might have an impact on students learning (hopefully positive, possibly negative). They certainly can give people doing research on learning and teaching some insight into how the students respond to different things.

Since at least the 1990s, Mazur (among others) has been a strong proponent of this in physics education: http://mazur-www.harvard.edu/research/detailspage.php?ed=1&rowid=8 [harvard.edu]

As an aside, there does seem to be some research indicating that not all multiple-guess exams are crap from the point of view of evaluating student ability in comparison to evaluating them based on "work it out" problems. See for example the "previous projects" links at the UIUC Physics Education Research page: http://research.physics.illinois.edu/per/Research.html [illinois.edu]

Of course there is also the question of what we want our graduates of various programs to be able to do well. In most cases we do not expect our graduates to be answering exam questions in their final career activities, so there are legitimate questions about the value of almost any type of exam format.

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