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Microsoft's Virtual Skywriting Patent App Features the Real Thing

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the sounds-like-a-creative-children's-story dept.

Microsoft 66

theodp writes "GeekWire reports that Microsoft this week was awarded a patent on something it calls 'virtual skywriting', an augmented reality service that adds fake skywriting to scenes captured on a cell phone screen. Odd enough in its own right, but Microsoft also included an unattributed photo in the patent application which it described as 'an example of virtual skywriting in use,' although it certainly appears to be identical to a famous image of actual skywriting from a 2001 public art project. If that turns out to be the case, could the self-described opponent of half-baked patents and IP misuse find itself in hot water with the USPTO for using the 'prior art' to fake its fake skywriting?"

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66 comments

This is a great idea (2, Funny)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36546846)


Why is this a bad thing?

Take a step back and think about it: if this patent is granted and we can all do virtual skywriting, it will eliminate actual planes in the air doing "real" skywriting.

There are a few reasons why this is a great idea:

1) All those carbon emission will be eliminated which means less carbon to warm the earth and less carbon going into your system which causes dangerous nervous system issues.

2) People will not have to go outside in the bright sun to view skywriting. This would probably eliminate dozens, maybe millions of skin cancers every year. Not only that, the oncogene trigger is but one thing tripped by excessive sunlight. Another is vertebral subluxations around C7-C8 and T1-T7. Those cause issues with your hands and chest. They aren't sure exactly why this happens but there was some ongoing research at The Journal of Subluxation Research [journalofs...search.com] before they went offline some time ago.

I'm not the biggest fan of "tech for tech's sake" but this is a genuinely good idea. One of the better examples of tech improving our lives.



Take care,
Bob

Re:This is a great idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36547196)

If this patent gets granted, only those that get licensing from MS can do it. So not all.

Also, how does this eliminate actual planes - until we can just point at the sky and make an image appear there, we still need them. I for one do not intend to take a pic, add skywriting to it and then look at it.

Re:This is a great idea (5, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36548252)

If this patent gets granted, only those that get licensing from MS can do it. So not all.

And that's fair enough too.

Who else has so much experience with blue screens and white text?

Re:This is a great idea (0)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547580)

I heard you like fake skywriting so I put fake skywriting in your fake skywriting and I ended up with subluxations!

Re:This is a great idea (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36549968)

Take a step back and think about it: if this patent is granted and we can all do virtual skywriting, it will eliminate actual planes in the air doing "real" skywriting.

why does it have to be patented for us to be able to do it?

Re:This is a great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36638586)

Jesus christ you people, is your humor meter broken? How could you possibly take this seriously after The Journal of Subluxation Research? You're exactly why slashdot sucks a giant dick.http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/06/23/1937237/Microsofts-Virtual-Skywriting-Patent-App-Features-the-Real-Thing?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Slashdot%2Fslashdot+%28Slashdot%29#

Hell yeah, (3, Funny)

Brummund (447393) | more than 3 years ago | (#36546890)

let's award a patent for adding text to an image. Sometimes I wish Mr Franklin had been given a perpetual patent on electricity, which he chose to not license out.

Re:Hell yeah, (3, Insightful)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36546992)

The patent is for the system of how to add fake images that appear to look like skywriting to an existing images - both text and graphics. The idea is to take an existing photo or text and automatically modify it to look like skywriting. If there is no current application that does this then based on current standards that is a legit patent.

Mr. Franklin didn't invent electricity - he discovered it. You can't patent electricity anymore than you can patent water.

Either way, it looks to me like they were giving an example of how it would work. You don't have to have the system working in order to patent it. Their choice was just a poor one.

Re:Hell yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36547268)

"The idea is to take an existing photo or text and automatically modify it to look like skywriting. If there is no current application that does this then based on current standards that is a legit patent."

Are you nuts? I haven't read the patent app, but performing transformations on text for both still and video has been around forever. Isn't choosing a font/effect set and then entering text for titling equivalent to automatically modifying the text? If they had tried to patent 'drippy jam' font I would be able to pop them for prior art with an old Amiga titling package.

Re:Hell yeah, (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547388)

Well if you haven't read the patent or even the article then why are you commenting? It's not just text - it can be images - and the process is handled through your cell phone. Patents are supposed to be very specific. They aren't patenting just turning text into an fancy font. It is the entire process that the photo will go through (including identifying where the sky is).

Close, but it's actually NOT about text or images (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547386)

Superimposed images are only the visual representation - the end product, so to speak.
I guess writer of the article was too busy being all "OMG! Evil M$ empire steals photo, spreads lies!" to pay any attention to the actual idea behind the patent.

What they are actually patenting is a service that lets its users take photos of the sky and superimpose text and/or images over that image to appear like skywriting.
Said service then STORES THE LOCATION OF THE USER, and then allows other users to see those (and other) superimposed images when they take a photo of that piece of the sky.

Think virtual Bat-signal, not "lame automated Photoshop plugin".
Or, for the daylight photos "Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's - the new Coca-Cola commercial".

Re:Close, but it's actually NOT about text or imag (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36551098)

The mind boggles as to why people would voluntarily take pictures of the sky so that M$ could insert fake sky writing in them.

Unless, of course, you mean the US patent office, oh my god, has patented purposeful and with intent to profit copyright infringement, the illegal alteration of someone's copyrighted photograph and the insertion of advertising in that image that will destroy the original intent of that private image. So an invasion of privacy in accessing the private data of a phones stored images, an illegal copyright infringing copy of that image being made so that it can be altered, the illegal infringement of copyright in altering that image, the fraudulent misrepresentation that the user wanted to incorporate the fake sky writing in that image.

So basically some dick who want's their advertising to appear in a particular section of sky, takes a photo of that section of sky and pays a service to commit a string of crimes so that "a plurality of users" get stuck with that fake sky writing if they take a photo with that particular section of sky in it. So yeah, reading the actual patent, pretty Evil.

Are you naturally that stupid... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#36552262)

...or do you dye your hair?

Who's now copyrighted what now?
You mean that when YOU take a photo of THE SKY, you think that YOU are breaking copyright? Whose copyright? God's?

Also, when YOU upload YOUR photo to an online service for the purpose of adding various clip-art drawings and or text, you actually think that you are breaking more copyright? Whose copyright would that be?
You from 5 minutes ago? Are you really THAT big of a prick, that you would sue your future self for copyright infringement?
AND invasion of privacy.

Are you schizophrenic or something?
Do many people live in your head, fucking with your mail and erasing your phone messages while you sleep? If so, you should see a psychiatrist.
Now. Before they take over again.

Once again, how it works.

YOU take photo of sky.
YOU upload photo to M$-patented-thingamajig.
YOU write "I suck many cocks" across the image of that part of the sky using their built in interface. I believe that you already see the appeal of THAT.
M$-patented-thingamajig records your location and the stuff you wrote/draw, and puts that (location and your text/drawing) into their database. It's OK... You clicked [yes] on their EULA.
YOU then tell your friend to use his M$-patented-thingamajig phone app, take a snapshot of the sky "over there" (he could be across town, but in the line of sight to that piece of sky) and read you what it says.
Your friend takes a snapshot of the sky using M$-patented-thingamajig phone app.
M$-patented-thingamajig takes his photo and checks his location, analyzes its relation to your original position, photo and text, renders visual representation what HE would see on HIS photo and sends HIS photo back to HIM.
He reads "rtb61 sucks many cocks" back to you.

And any copyright issue Microsoft might have with you writing copyrighted text/drawing copyrighted images in the virtual sky of your photos is dealt with simply by a line of text in the EULA.
Line that says that YOU take all responsibility for all instances of "I suck many cocks" that you will write, which don't already fall under fair use.

As for use of this as an advertising device...
On second thought, unless they start charging money to have parts of the "virtual sky" protected from vandalism, and thereby destroy the appeal to the common user - there would be too many instances of Cock-A-Cola or similar "sky graffiti" over existing commercials for this to ever be profitable.

Besides... Advertising is something Google would do.
Microsoft would just force you to use their Zune-Phone or something in order to use the app.

Re:Are you naturally that stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36553008)

Mods, can you explain why posts like this are no longer being modded as flamebait?

Re:Are you naturally that stupid... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36553306)

Mods, can you explain why posts like this are no longer being modded as flamebait?

Because it's not flamebait, but just a slightly exasperated reply to an incredibly stupid post?

Re:Are you naturally that stupid... (1)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 3 years ago | (#36553844)

Mods, can you explain why posts like this are no longer being modded as flamebait?

Because it's not flamebait, but just a slightly exasperated reply to an incredibly stupid post?

I'd say more than just "slightly exasperated." It is uncouth, impolite, ad hominem.

Re:Hell yeah, (1)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547390)

Franklin didn't discover electricity either. It is thought that the Greeks(or was it the Minoans?) created the first electro-chemical battery. They just didn't know what the hell to do with it.

Franklin, on the other hand, proved that electricity and lightning are one in the same.

Re:Hell yeah, (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547706)

Well before the Greeks not sure about the Minoan bit, but earliest "battery" found near Baghdad from 250-225 BCE. However, evidence of electroplating exist from ancient Sumer dating back to at least 2,500 BCE.

Re:Hell yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36547420)

Holy Shit!!!! a slashtard who understands what's patentable and makes a reasonable answer instead of bashing software patents and microsoft. I gotta lay off the weed.

Re:Hell yeah, (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547894)

Or than you can patent genetic sequences you discover, right?

Re:Hell yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36548396)

Exactly what I was thinking.

Re:Hell yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36548074)

Mr. Franklin didn't invent electricity - he discovered it. You can't patent electricity anymore than you can patent water.

But, he could have patented the system of using lines/wires to conduct the flow of electricity and then chosen not to license others use, well maybe not back then. But in the USPTO of today where overly broad generalised patents are being issued he could have.

Re:Hell yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36548504)

So if a game company used commercial off-the-shelf photography based cube-maps for a sky box, and added particle system to model skywriting that wouldn't be prior art? I guess they believe that the use of a mobile-phone gives this patent novelty, even if it does use a Windows OS.

Re:Hell yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36550064)

Mr. Franklin didn't invent electricity - he discovered it. You can't patent electricity anymore than you can patent water.

Or, say, human DNA sequences [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hell yeah, (1)

Dodgy G33za (1669772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36552844)

At the risk of going metaphysical on you, I assume the algorithm to do this existed before Microsoft 'discovered' it. Therefore the analogy is indeed valid.

Re:Hell yeah, (1)

Anonymus (2267354) | more than 3 years ago | (#36557028)

Unfortunately, under today's patent system he could quite likely have received a patent as broad as "a system which generates electricity and/or sends it to devices powered by it" without even giving complete technical details (as is supposed to be required for a patent).

Re:Hell yeah, (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547344)

Mr. Franklin didn't invent electricity.

But if you wan to electrocute yourself by flying a kite with a wet, silk string and a key dangling from it, you will have to pay him a royalty first. If this was 1789...

I might be missing something but... (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#36546906)

How is this "prior art"? Surely if anything it would be misrepresentation and copyright infringement, but real skywriting doesn't constitute prior art for a computer app which fakes it...

Re:I might be missing something but... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36546934)

True enough. There are so many other ways that this is an absurd patent.

Re:I might be missing something but... (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547078)

Why is it any more absurd than any other software patent? I actually think it would be a cool feature. I'm surprised there isn't something like it already in Photoshop. I'd imagine that those with a romantic view might take it to turn a photo of their gf's face and turn it into skywriting over a photo of himself.

Re:I might be missing something but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36549104)

It'd be even funnier/more absurd if the original, artsy photo had itself been photoshopped.

Re:I might be missing something but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36547234)

Based on that legal theory, the next Microsoft hardware patent [ugo.com] must be already in the works...

Re:I might be missing something but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36548266)

How is this "prior art"?

I'm pretty sure it was a weak joke. Skywriting is art of a sort and they used this previously existing art work in their patent. Prior art. Ha ha. Hence the use of quote marks around 'prior art' in the summary. In fact I think this joke, such as it is, is the entire point of the story. There's nothing else to it.

Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36546958)

Next thing they will want to patent faking farting sounds in rerecorded recordings.

Maybe that's the point? (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#36546972)

That it looks so much like a real photo may be the point in proving how well it works, although I would imiagine it's very difficult to recreate that entire scene.

Re:Maybe that's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36547554)

That's what I figured - the purpose of this was to reproduce skywriting, faked, that looks real. Presumably you would, then, want it to look like actual skywriting.

So, they photoshopped up an artist's impression of a cellphone making a piece of sky look like some real skywriting, and as part of their source material they used a photo of some real skywriting. Wouldn't a picture of a scene with a device superimposing a picture of reality over real reality look pretty similar to a picture of a scene with the same reality?

Re:Maybe that's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36579642)

That it looks so much like a real photo may be the point in proving how well it works, although I would imiagine it's very difficult to recreate that entire scene.

It has to be an image showing the proposed invention. If you can't tell the difference between what the proposed invention does and something entirely different you have to ask yourself: "Is this really novel enough to be patented?"

...In Augmented Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36546984)

So now instead of patenting something by adding "on the Internet" to the end, we add "in Augmented Reality"?

Re:...In Augmented Reality (0)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547350)

Ahhh Microsoft. Can those fuckers INNOVATE, or what?

Of course not. (1)

AnotherShep (599837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547024)

Are you fucking retarded? It's an example image.

Re:Of course not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36547098)

Yes, en example image of it being supposedly 'in use'. Which it isn't. So I turn the question: are YOU fucking retarded?

Re:Of course not. (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547188)

I think it would be obvious that the sample image wouldn't be the real product. You don't typically patent something after the fact. This thing probably isn't even in prototype at this point.

The bigger problem is that they used a copyrighted image without permission.

Re:Of course not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36548674)

This thing probably isn't even in prototype at this point.

It used to be you had to have a prototype to get a patent. Why should someone get a patent for something they can't make work?

Re:Of course not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36548808)

"You don't typically patent something after the fact"

Oh yes, you do! You cannot patent an idea - you can only patent something that already works, and you have to submit a working sample.

Re:Of course not. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#36560506)

Although working prototypes no longer have to be submitted with the patent, you're still supposed to have reduced the idea to practice.

Re:Of course not. (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547950)

This is slashdot, where patents and MS are always bad, and common sense can go fuck itself.

Patent applications more often than not use mockups that are vague, ugly, weird, or hypothetical examples that use existing real world things.
This is done to prevent competitors from figuring out what the fuck they're doing, as well as to keep the patent as broad as possible.

If this was about a video game hardware patent from Nintendo or Sony, would Slashdot claim they were doing something wrong by using images of dildo wands and bows and arrows and whatnot in their descriptions? No. But because this is Microsoft, all reason goes out the window.

So... (0)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547104)

Slow news day, huh?

Re:So... (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547368)

Yeah, I enjoy MS and Apple -bashing as much as the next guy, but digging at the authenticity of some poor schlob's lame explanatory graphic that was probably pulled from a PPT slide is the argument a moron would make ;-) A desperate moron at that :P

This is Ballmer's idea (2)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547280)

Of cloud computing.

Re:This is Ballmer's idea (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547356)

I bet he imagines a Beowulf cluster of bananas at least once a day.

Re:This is Ballmer's idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36547408)

I bet he imagines a Beowulf cluster of bananas at least once a day.

I know I do. And he's sitting on it, screaming for bloody mercy.

Re:This is Ballmer's idea (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#36551308)

I bet he imagines a Beowulf cluster of chairs at least once a day.

FTFY

Re:This is Ballmer's idea (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547378)

I'm pretty sure Balmer's clouds have more methane and sulphur dioxide in them.

Hi (-1, Offtopic)

obagiseler (2301496) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547498)

In germany we use http://www.neozero.de/ [neozero.de]

Re:Hi (0)

Verunks (1000826) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547574)

if you wanted someone to belive your spam link you should have at least said something bad about microsoft

Sumitter needs to get a clue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36547558)

It is perfectly normal for patent submissions to be made up of "artist's renderings" as they used to be called or "PhotoShopped Images" as we usually think of them today.

Thanks for looking like a fool for our entertainment.

In Soviet Russia... (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36547956)

In Soviet Russia, Reality Augments you! (sigh...)

Yo Microsoft, I'm really happy for you (1)

Cito (1725214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36548014)

and I'll let you finish, but Adobe had the best photoshop of all time!

This is Microsoft (1)

Wandering Fire (2214566) | more than 3 years ago | (#36549440)

This is something only microsoft would do

Patents...are written by lawyers (1)

grouchomarxist (127479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36549952)

I my experience patents are written by lawyers. In particular they're written by law firms that specialize in writing patents. Because of this they're disconnected from the original inventors of the technology. They might not even be particularly familiar with the technology involved. In addition to this they might have the paralegal getting the pictures for the patent.

This doesn't excuse this problem, but it might explain how it came about. Microsoft is supposed to have reviewed the patents before submission, but who knows, the inventor might have left his job while the patent was getting written up. Or when it is crunch time, who has time to carefully review patents?

Re:Patents...are written by lawyers (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36552348)

Don't know how it is handled in the US in particular, but here in Europe, patent attorneys have a scientific/engineering background and are not pure lawyers. I am working in a patent law firm at the moment. I, personally, am a biochemist. The guy in the office to my right is a physicist, office to my left EE, across the hallway, we got a ME, a geologist and wine chemist (don't ask)... So we generally do have a clue about the technology involved.

Re:Patents...are written by lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36562266)

Same thing in the US. You need to have a technical or scientific background, typically a bachelor's degree or equivalent, to be a patent attorney.

Microsoft Responds: Use of Image an 'Error' (1)

theodp (442580) | more than 3 years ago | (#36550652)

[Update, Thursday June 23: Microsoft's statement in response to our inquiry: "âoeThe use of the skywriting image in the patent was an error and Microsoft will immediately submit the patent for re-issue proceedings to correct the drawings. Microsoft regrets any confusion caused by this error.â]

Re:Microsoft Responds: Use of Image an 'Error' (1)

severoon (536737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36550982)

Is using a copyrighted image in a patent application considered infringement? Any lawyers up in hurr?

Is this really patentable? (1)

AftanGustur (7715) | more than 3 years ago | (#36552548)

What will be next?

Adding fake Graffiti to walls?

Adding people in picture that aren't there when the picture is taken?

Adding thinks like cigarettes or beer bottles to people's hands ?

Come on people, this is just silly.

Just grow a pair and hire a pilot! (1)

dkh2 (29130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36553032)

Seriously. If you're point is to get the picture to ask some geek hag to marry you because you've grown beyond virtual girl and want a real one then hire the stinking sky writing pilot to spell out "@SkankyGurl, will you marry me?" - so the whole bay area can see it, take a picture of it and post it to the internets.

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