A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material that is subject to ID copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The invention disclosed herein relates to electronic presentation and use of maps and other area representations (including geographic and non-geographic areas), and related information, and to the interactive use thereof. The presentations may be provided to users via any type of communications or computer network (including wired and/or wireless), such as an intranet, LAN, WAN or the Internet, an system including interactive television, or may be provided in local storage, e.g., in a client or server hard disk or CD, etc.
Electronically presented maps are available over the Internet. See, for example, www.mapquest.com, www.mapsonus.com, www.maps.expedia.com, www.maps.yahoo.com (accessed through www.yahoo.com), www.maps.com, www.maps.excite.com, (accessed through www.excite.com), www.mapblast.com, and www.zip2.com. Also see U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,974,170, 5,682, 525 and 6,148,260. A magnifier feature that facilitates use of an electronically presented map is disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,818,455. U.S. Pat. No. 4,800,379 also discloses use of a magnifier in connection with display of an image.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention provides computerized systems and methods for providing an electronically presented interactive area representation, such as a map, and information associated therewith. In some embodiments, a user can select text, imagery, or other information presented on the map and associated with one or more items or locations, causing presentation of information relating to the associated one or more items or locations, such as appropriate contact information or a hyperlink to an appropriate Web site. Additionally or alternatively, a user can input or select, based on a query or otherwise, information relating to one or more items or locations associated with text, imagery, or other information presented on the map, causing presentation of an indication of one or more locations of the associated text, imagery, or other information on the map. In some embodiments, internal navigation within the map can be provided using a magnifier that highlights, indicates, or otherwise defines a portion of the map, causing a simultaneous magnified presentation of the defined portion to be provided, which magnifier can be moved smoothly over the map. In some embodiments, animated images can be presented to appear to move over the map and can simultaneously appear to move through magnified presentations. In some embodiments, the animated images can include advertisements which can be related or unrelated to items or locations associated with text, imagery, or other information presented on the map.
The invention provides improvement in the presentation and ease of use of electronically presented maps and other area representations, and information provided by and in association therewith. “Map” and “area representation” are used herein in a broad sense and may encompass a variety of geographic and non-geographic areas. The invention presents information in the area representation itself as well as other information associated with the area representation, provides a unique format for electronically presenting and interactively using an area representation, and uniquely associates information and area representation locations and/or parts. In some embodiments, the area representation represents a site and the item information relates to locations within the site, or a virtual area, or a printed page, etc. Discussion of the invention in connection with a map is illustrative of other area representation applications.
In a preferred embodiment, the invention enables users to obtain information about an area, such as a neighborhood, community, village or city, etc., represented by an electronically presented map, in an easy and enjoyable manner, similar in essence to actually walking through the area of interest.
Maps and other area representations may be provided in accordance with the invention over a network (including wired and/or wireless), e.g., an open or closed network, or locally, e.g., on a CD or diskette or loaded into local hard drive or electronic memory.
The invention provides, e.g., digital signals from which an area representation can be electronically displayed, and digital signals representing associated information, such as text, related in some way to at least one of the locations of the area representation. Sets of digital signals representing supplementary or additional information such as text words, phrases, images, or their combination at least partly containing text, words, images, or characters, etc. are associated with respective location information corresponding to respective locations of the area representation when displayed. Thereby, information associated with a location of an area representation can be displayed based on the location's location information, and location information can be obtained based on associated supplementary or additional information. The digital signals and information may be stored in one or more databases including relationship between and among digital signals and information. Supplementary information, additional information and item information can include voice information, which can be presented, for example, through speakers.
The location information can be obtained from the input of a position indicator device such as a mouse, digitizer, touch screen, touch pad, keyboard, voice recognition system, etc. Associating location information obtained from a position indicator with supplementary or additional information allows the information to be accessed from the location information, and also allows the position indicator to be positioned at a location on a displayed area representation related to the associated information. This may be done on a static or dynamic basis, e.g., when a position indicator is in a fixed location or while it is moving.
The invention in one of its aspects provides two-way interactivity, i.e., associated text or other information can be accessed from location-related information, and a desired location on an area representation can be identified from text or other information. The two-way interactivity thereby allows a user to take advantage of a displayed area representation as well as information available through the system about items associated with locations on the area representation.
For an area representation embodied by a map, placing the position indicator on a desired location on the displayed map can be used to display associated information, and entering or selecting displayed information, image or images, text, or characters can be used to position the position indicator on the map at a location related to the entered or displayed information, image or images, text, or characters..
The invention also provides a magnifier feature which can be used with the area representation and/or the text. In one implementation, digital signals are provided representing two versions of an area representation, which when displayed provide a smaller, or unmagnified, version and a larger, or magnified, version of at least a portion of the area representation. The magnifier feature highlights or otherwise defines the portion of the smaller version of the area representation, and software associates locations on the two area representations and provides a display of the smaller, or unmagnified, version, or view, of the area representation with a highlighted or otherwise defined portion and, simultaneously, a magnified version, or magnified view, of the smaller, highlighted portion.
A location on either or both versions of the area representation is related to supplementary or additional information and text as described above.
The invention in a preferred embodiment displays a composite view of a smaller area representation, a portion of the area representation enlarged or magnified, and associated text information.
The invention in another aspect provides moving images in association with an area representation and the magnifier feature. Separate scripts are used to move the respective images relative to the respective smaller and larger versions of the area representation. The images are relatively scaled in generally the same proportion as the two versions of the area representations. Movement of the images is tracked along corresponding paths on respective area representations. This provides for a smaller version of the image to move relative to the smaller version of the area representation and the larger image to move related to the larger version of the area representation. When a portion of the larger area representation is displayed together with the smaller area representation, the image, e.g., appears to enter the larger version of the area representation synchronized with movement of the image on the smaller area representation. One way to accomplish this is to provide, for each image, lists of points defining movement of the respective image relative to the respective area representation.
The moving images may be implemented in any suitable manner, e.g., using sprites.
In accordance with the invention, an electronic area representation is provided of an area and item information thereon relating to one or more items associated with the area. The item information for different items is at different locations on the area representation. In response to user input selecting item information, additional information relating to the item whose item information was selected is provided, preferably together with the area representation, e.g., on display including the area representation and the additional information. In this embodiment, in which the area representation preferably is a map that represents a geographic area, there is a relationship between the item information and the additional information which is preferably implemented by associating the location of the item information with the related supplementary or additional information.
In another embodiment, the additional information is associated with item information, e.g., via the location of the item information, so that user selection of such additional information provides on the area representation an indication of the item information relating to the selected additional. This embodiment includes a relationship between the item information (e.g., its location) and the additional information which is preferably also implemented by associating the location of the item information with the related supplementary or additional information. In this embodiment and the embodiment described immediately above, the relationship operates in opposite directions.
In still another embodiment, the relationship between item information (e.g., its location on the area representation) and additional information is two-way, i.e., this embodiment includes a relationship between the item information (e.g., its location) and the additional information that operates in both directions. This embodiment thereby provides the two-way or both direction functionality described herein.
In one embodiment, the invention also provides for highlighting a minor portion of the electronic area representation, and providing together with in the electronic area representation a magnified representation of the highlighted portion outside the area representation. The highlighted portion may be positioned on the electronic area representation by means of an input device and moved, preferably, continuously on the electronic display of the area representation.
The invention may provide in some embodiments for moving an image with respect to the area representation including through a highlighted portion and through a magnified representation of the highlighted portion, the image being represented magnified in the magnified portion as compared to the image moved with respect to the area representation.
The invention provides a computer readable medium or media which causes a computer to provide the functionality described herein, and systems and computers and methods, as described herein, that provide such functionality. Preferably, the electronic area representations are presented or displayed on any suitable display device, e.g., a computer monitor or television display device. Selection of item information and additional information may be made by any suitable input device, e.g., computer input devices such as keyboards, pointing devices (mouse, digitizer, touch screen, touch pad, etc.), voice input and recognition devices, etc. User input, as described herein, may also include a query requesting information related to item information on the electronic representation or additional information.
A map embodiment of the invention is described below with the understanding that such description applies where appropriate to other area representations which can be implemented from the disclosure herein by those of skill in the relevant art(s) without undue experimentation.
In a preferred embodiment, the invention associates a map location and/or map part with information (“item information”) relating to some place, item, thing or person, which can be real, imaginary, or otherwise, located at or associated with a map location and/or part of the map. “Item information” as used herein is meant in a broad sense, and encompasses information relating to persons, places, sites, items, points of interest, things, objects, etc., (e.g., for business, cultural, architectural, historical, recreational purposes, etc., residences, events, famous or historical persons, persons associated with a business or residence, etc.). (This type of association may also be applied to other area representations.)
Item information may include one or more of the following: a category, name, image, or other identification of a person, place or thing, a physical and/or electronic address thereof, contact information thereof, and information describing the nature or attributes, etc., thereof, at least containing text, characters, or one or more images. The invention provides for associating such information and locations and/or parts of an electronically presented map so that one can obtain a display of the item information interactively from a view of a map, or one can obtain a view of a map, i.e., and relevant part thereof, or map location interactively from the associated item information, or both. This is accomplished by associating each item with coordinate information obtained from data input by a positioning device for a position indicator, so that the coordinate information can be used to retrieve item information, and item information can be used to obtain related coordinate information. Also, a search feature may be provided to identify desired item information and map locations. Thus, in response to a query, e.g., a category query, which query can in some embodiments be input by voice using, for example, a voice recognition device, the search feature provides a list of all item information responsive to the query. The query can also be the name of a specific item, and the response would be a display of the associated item information and positioning of the position indicator at the location on the map of the queried item.
In addition, more sophisticated querying, as known in the art, is possible. For example, in some embodiments, users can execute queries utilizing a search function, search engine, or other search tool, such as a simple word search engine, or a boolean search engine. The search engine can be accessible, for example, from the map or a portion of a display outside the map. In addition, the search engine can be customized to the map, or can be a general search engine, such as any Internet search engine. In some embodiments, the search engine can be used to help provide the user with information useful in specifying appropriate categories, items, or location-related information, to be used in acquiring specific desired information in accordance with the various features of the invention.
Furthermore, in response to a user query, including a voice query input through a voice recognition device, or other user input or selection, submaps can be presented. For example, in some embodiments, a user can query the locations of restaurants in a certain portion of the area representation, and a submap excluding items other than restaurants may be presented. As another example, a user can query the location of restaurants in the entire area representation, and an area representation can be presented to the user that is similar to the originally presented area representation, but which omits items other than restaurants, or upon which restaurants are highlighted or otherwise made obvious, or upon which items other than restaurants are shown in a grayed-out or otherwise less obvious or obtrusive manner.
In some embodiments, a user can query, for example, the location of the nearest restaurant to a presently positioned position indicator on the area representation, in response to which a position indicator such as a magnifier is re-positioned by the system to the nearest restaurant on the area representation. Such embodiments can be implemented, for example, utilizing one or more text or other databases which contain information regarding the nearest items, or nearest items from particular categories, with respect to various map locations, or can be implemented by utilizing programming to calculate distances to items from map locations based on, for example the coordinates of items compared to the coordinates of a location on an area representation, which location can be defined with reference to a position indicator, magnifier, or in some other manner.
The item information is associated with a person, place or thing on, at, near or surrounding a position indicator on an electronic display of a map, e.g., a cursor on a computer monitor that is positionable using an input device such as a mouse, digitizer, keyboard, touchpad or touch screen. For example, item information is displayed correlated to the position on the map of the position indicator.
As discussed above, the invention provides a magnifier feature, or magnifier, which can be one form of position indicator, in conjunction with an electronically displayed area representation to display a selected part of the area representation magnified. Discussion of the magnifier feature in connection with a map is illustrative of other applications.
The map part that is shown magnified may be selected using a position indicator, as described above, on an electronic display of the map. In a preferred embodiment, the magnifier feature highlights or marks in some manner that part of the map which will be displayed magnified. The area highlighted may be a geometric area such as a circle, triangle or rectangle. The area may be highlighted by color, by being darker or lighter than the surrounding area, a line or lines or indicia defining an outline shape, a flashing area or cursor, etc. This highlighted or defined area or map part can be referred to herein as a magnifier or magnifier feature. In the preferred embodiment the shape of the part of the map displayed magnified corresponds to the shape of the magnifier, e.g., circular. Many of the functions of a magnifier can be accomplished by different position indicators, and many of the features of any position indicator can be accomplished by a magnifier. Unless indicated otherwise or from context, the term “position indicator” encompasses a magnifier. Therefore much of the description below regarding a magnifier applies to any position indicator as well, and vice versa. Moreover, in some applications, association of information and location can be used without a magnifier, or a magnifier could be used without association of information and location.
The magnifier may be positioned with respect to a normal or unmagnified presentation of the map in any suitable fashion. (Normal, “unmagnified” and “magnified” are meant in a relative sense. For example, an unmagnified presentation of a map may be a reduced version of a normal size map and vice versa, where by comparison, one map appears magnified). This may be accomplished, for example, by providing scaled versions of maps. For example, movement of the magnifier can be controlled by an input device. The magnifier may also be embodied by an object that is positioned using the cursor and an input device. For example, with a mouse as the input device, the magnifier can be positioned using mouse operations such as “point and click” and “drag and drop”. In the preferred embodiment, the magnifier is made of two sprites; one performs a highlighting function, e.g., provides a yellow or other highlighting color to provide a visual definition, and the other provides shape, e.g., to the highlighted area and may be a circular bitmap.
The magnified part of the map may be displayed within a normal or unmagnified presentation of the map, either overlaying the map part to be magnified, or displaced therefrom, or outside of the displayed map part. If the magnified map part is displayed within the map, the position thereof preferably is displaced from the position of the magnifier, and the position of the magnified part changes in accordance with the position of the magnifier. In the preferred embodiment, the magnified map part is displayed outside of the map itself, and a magnifier corresponding in outline shape to the magnified map part, e.g., circular, triangular, rectangular, etc. is shown highlighted and unmagnified. This arrangement permits simultaneous presentation of a highlighted unmagnified map part and the corresponding magnified map part without obscuring any part of the presented map.
In other embodiments of the invention, the magnified map part or magnified view is presented as overlying and obscuring or partially obscuring at least part of the a portion of the unmagnified version highlighted or otherwise defined by the magnifier. For example, the magnified view can be presented as obscuring the entire defined portion. For instance, a magnifier can be implemented as a circle defining the portion of the unmagnified version. The defined portion of the unmagnified version can be obscured and apparently covered by the magnified version, the magnified version showing a magnified view of at least a part of the defined portion. Such an implementation, to a user, gives the an appearance resembling that of a magnifying glass situated above the defined portion of the unmagnified view, and giving a magnified view of at least a part of the defined portion. Alternatively, the magnified version can be displayed so that a part of the unmagnified version appears to cover a part of the unmagnified map, while a remainder of the unmagnified version is displayed “off” of the unmagnified map.
In some embodiments of the invention, the magnifier can be moved in any direction using, for example, a mouse or other pointing device, such that the magnifier appears to move fluidly and smoothly over the unmagnified map, defining ever-changing portions of the unmagnified map, giving an appearance, in some embodiments, resembling physically moving a magnifying glass over a map. Simultaneously, the magnified version of the defined portion is displayed, whether being displayed over the defined portion or separately or partially separately from the unmagnified map. As the magnifier is moved over the unmagnified map, smoothly changing the defined portion, the magnified version smoothly changes accordingly, to display a smoothly changing magnified version which tracks and corresponds with the defined portion.
As described above, in certain embodiments, the unmagnified map is displayed, or at least partially displayed, simultaneously with the magnified version. As such, a user is provided with the ability to see where the magnifier is on the unmagnified map as the magnifier smoothly moves over the map. The user can also, of course, view the magnified version at any time, conveniently being able to perceive, by reference to the unmagnified map including the magnifier, the location on, or the portion of, the unmagnified map that corresponds to the magnified version. The above-described embodiments, via the fluidly movable magnifier and corresponding magnified version, provide internal navigation within the unmagnified map.
In some embodiments, the magnifier can be replaced with any indicator of a portion of a mapable area of any sort, and the magnified version can instead be any more detailed version of the mapable area. As just one of many potential applications, in some embodiments the invention provides internal navigation within a Web page, whereby, for example, a magnifier can be moved over features such as text, icons, images, or other representations on the Web page, to visually define such features, causing simultaneous display of views which correspond to the defined feature or features, which views can be, in varying embodiments, for example, magnified or more detailed views of the defined features, or other views which provide information associated with the defined feature or features.
Similar to providing for the display of item information that is associated with the position of a position indicator without a magnification feature as discussed above, the invention provides for the display of item information associated with the magnified map part or designated by a magnifier.
Descriptions herein of the relationship of displayed item information and the position of a position indicator apply to embodiments that include or do not include the magnifier feature and/or a magnifier unless indicated otherwise or by the context. Displayed item information changes to correspond to item information related to a re-positioned position of a position indicator. Displayed item information may change with, and track, movement of the position indicator, and/or displayed item information may change for each new stationary position of the position indicator. The associated item information may be displayed automatically or in response to an input such as a mouse operation (e.g., point and click or drag and drop) or keyboard entry. For example, new item information corresponding to the position of the position indicator on the map is displayed after the position indicator remains stationary at a new location for a given time.
The invention also provides for movement of the position indicator to the associated position on the map in response to selection or input of item information. Choosing an entry or listing, e.g., in a categorical directory, causes the position indicator to move to the appropriate location on the map, and conversely, positioning the position indicator on the map causes one or more of the listing of items related to the categorical directory to be displayed.
Examples of categories include those typically found in a telephone yellow pages book or electronic listing, e.g., food stores, drugstores, post offices, automobile rental companies, restaurants, museums, theaters, etc. Categories may also include items not typically found in a telephone yellow pages book, such as parks, points of interest, items in tourist guides, etc. for example. In the preferred embodiment, item information for a position map is contained in a character-based or text database, and graphics for the map is contained, e.g., in conjunction with a graphic file or files.
In one embodiment, two graphics files of maps are displayed; a “magnified view” and an “unmagnified or normal view”, the magnified view being, e.g., four times the size of the unmagnified view. In addition, the system also displays item information associated with these views. By using the position indicator's coordinates to index item information within a text and/or character-based and/or graphics and/or image database, specific item information tagged to regions of the magnified view (and indirectly to regions of the unmagnified view) is displayed to the user when the cursor enters regions of the unmagnified view (by simple index look-up or other text retrieval method). Conversely, if the user selects specific displayed item information, the system retrieves and displays the graphical information relating to the region associated with the item information (e.g., by placing the magnifier at the relevant location on the unmagnified view and displaying the corresponding magnified view). Thus, item information can be retrieved and displayed by selecting a region of the unmagnified view, and a region of the unmagnified view (and the corresponding magnified view) can be retrieved and displayed by selecting specific item information. Further, in one embodiment the entire unmagnified map is displayed, but only a portion of the magnified map is displayed at a time. Additionally, the portion of the magnified view displayed is circular with a mask revealing the magnified area corresponding to the unmagnified area under the magnifier (i.e., the magnified view is based on the ratio of the maps' sizes—e.g. four to one).
Alternatively, a single graphic file can be stored, and scaling can be used to obtain a larger or smaller image than the one stored in the graphic file.
Users are, therefore, able to simultaneously view item information associated with regions on the unmagnified and/or magnified map (such as contact information relating to buildings, an image of the buildings or a related person or persons), and link to a web site with a mouse click. In embodiments including the magnifier feature, the graphic information may be viewed magnified together with the associated item information. Alternatively, users can explore a city by category (e.g., restaurants, schools, etc.) and view the location and/or map part (magnified and/or normal) and relevant information associated with each listing under the category.
A feature of the invention is associating a hyperlink with an image, such as a building, which provides the ability to access selected information or a web site associated with the building (or its occupants) by clicking (or double-clicking) an image (magnified or normal or unmagnified) of the building, or by clicking (or double-clicking) an associated item information portion. In the preferred embodiment, a listing can be selected, e.g., by mouse clicking, either the graphical representation of the listing on the map or a item information listing, to activate a hyperlink to further information provided for or about the listing. For example, the hyperlink can be a URL, and mouse clicking can cause an Internet-enabled device to request the web page represented by the URL. This hyperlink is provided as all or part of the item information associated with the listing.
In one embodiment, moving objects appear in the unmagnified view and/or in the magnified view, and preferably in both. In a preferred embodiment, a moving object displayed in an unmagnified view will have a similar appearance and movement in a magnified view. The objects may additionally display messages to the user and/or include advertisements. The moving objects can be in any image and may include images of modes of transportation (e.g., planes, hot air balloons, cars, etc.), people, animals, or objects (e.g., a baseball hit outside of a stadium). Each moving object is implemented as a sprite (i.e., instances of media elements) through algorithms that generate points in lists (i.e. x/y coordinates) that make up location paths that the balloons, blimps, etc. are programmed to follow.
The invention also provides for the display of the map in perspective and in a distinctive style of illustration. Some other style of illustration or conventional two-dimensional bird's eye view of, e.g., the community could be used in an alternative implementation of the invention.
The invention also provides methods and systems for improving the effectiveness of advertising. Unlike banners and other forms of advertising that are currently being used on web sites, these ads are naturally blended into the map's scenery and can even potentially mimic advertisements posted at “actual” locations. For example, if the Burnett Group posted an advertisement in Times Square during June 2001, the company could also post the same advertisement at the Times Square location on an electronically displayed map during that same time period. Accordingly, there are a variety of ways that companies can advertise on an electronically displayed map e.g., billboards, moving objects, etc.—that are effective from a marketing standpoint and engaging from a user's perspective. One method provided by the invention comprises including item information at a plurality of locations on the electronic representation relating to a product or service to be advertised, in response to user selection of a location on the electronic representation or additional information as described herein, providing additional information or an indication of item information, as described herein, having the advertising. The additional information provided in response to user selection is preferably presented outside of and simultaneously with the electronic representation of the area. Another advertising method involves moving an image over the electronic display of the map over the map and providing advertising to move with the image. The moving image and associated advertising can also be provided in the advertising method described above. The methods preferably also include arranging for a financial benefit for presenting at least one of the item information and the additional information. The financial benefit may be remuneration to a party who provides advertising that is accessible for viewing by appropriate persons.
Advertising can be sold, for example, by a map provider, at fixed locations, or in connection with a moving object. In some embodiments, a map provider is provided with benefit, such as a fee, to include an animated image providing advertisement, the benefit being provided, for example, by an entity with an interest in having the advertisement presented. Different fees can be charged depending upon circumstances. In addition, advertisements can be related to for-profit or not-for-profit enterprises or causes.
The invention also provides a business method in which advertising is presented on a map and the sponsor of the advertising is charged a fee for the advertising. The advertising may be displayed in a selected stationary location or locations on the map, e.g., on a billboard or sign, or on a moving object, e.g., a moving graphic representation such as a hot air balloon, or blimp, or airplane moving in any selected direction relative to the map, or boat moving on a body of water (if the map includes or borders on a body of water), or a vehicle or pedestrian moving on streets or highways on the map, etc. In various embodiments, advertising may be static, dynamic and/or animated (changing images and/or text and/or multimedia), accompanied by sounds and/or music. Different fees may be charged depending upon the location of the advertisement, size of the advertisement, the time the advertisement is to run, etc. For example, higher fees are charged to the more frequented areas, or higher fees are charged to advertise at a building, e.g., by the building's main tenant, etc. Also, higher fees can be charged to advertise a location in the same time period in which an event is occurring at the location, etc.
Similarly, the categorical directory could contain display advertising, which could itself take advantage of multi-media possibilities, such as animation, music, sound, voice-overs, broadband streaming audio and video, film clips, etc.
The following examples illustrate the advantages of the invention. Upon selection or input of the category “theaters”, a list of theaters within the geographic area represented by the displayed map will be displayed. Selection of a theater from the list will cause the position indicator to move to the area in which the theater is located, and that area will also be displayed magnified. Thus, a listing selected from a category directory causes the position indicator to move to the listing's location on the map, and the associated area to be displayed magnified. In addition, a person (i.e., a “user”) working, living, or visiting in or near a geographic area may want to know where he or she may purchase a gift. The user may want to determine what stores are within a three-block radius of his or her office, home or hotel. After accessing the relevant map, the user may simply move the position indicator around the area of the interactive map where he is located and view images of all of the stores and associated item information. As the position indicator is moved, item information relating to buildings within the highlighted area is simultaneously displayed for the user. After exploring an area of interest, a user may select a site to visit for the purpose of selecting a gift to purchase. At this point, the user may not have decided on a particular gift, but has decided that a store is likely to have the type of article that he or she may be interested in purchasing.
On the other hand, if the user has a specific gift in mind, such as personalized stationary, the user can access the appropriate category (e.g., “stationary”), view a list of stores offering stationary in the geographic area, and select a store of interest, e.g., stores offering stationary such as “City Stationers.” Once the user clicks on “City Stationers,” the position indicator moves to the store's location on the map. The user will then be able to see where the store is located relative to his or her location, and all relevant information about the store (e.g., contact information).
Other uses include, for example: tourists interested in visually exploring a city before deciding upon an itinerary, someone in need of medical care interested in finding the hospital closest to their location and the hospital's emergency information, someone interested in moving to a city who would like to find the names and locations of all real estate agents within a ten block radius of a specific high school, etc. The list of potential uses is essentially limitless.
Furthermore, the invention can provide users with a tremendous variety of information. For example, users can simultaneously obtain information regarding: the location of businesses and their contact information and web sites, the location of public transit services and their hours of operation, the location of hospitals and the emergency numbers, the location of parks and their available facilities and hours of operation, etc. In addition, animation, sound, and other added enhancements can be added to the site.
In alternative embodiments, graphic information may represent any region, e.g., cities, rural regions, bodies of water, areas in space, etc. Moreover, the text information may contain any information associated with any part of the region. For example, alternative implementations may include additional categories such as parks, hospitals, famous landmarks, subway stops, etc. Further, alternative embodiments may include images associated with any region. For example: images of animals may be displayed on a map showing where the animals live or are located in a zoo or a forest; similarly, images of U.S. presidents or movie stars may be displayed on a map of cities (or a city or area) associated with the Presidents or movie stars, etc. For example, images of movie stars may be displayed on a map of the Hollywood area. Moreover, the item information associated with these images may contain any information associated with the images (e.g., information about animals, the term of each president, films the movie stars appeared in, etc.).
Although the invention is mainly described in connection with geographical area representation such as maps or diagrams of geographic locations, and persons, places and things and information associated therewith, “area representation” is meant in a broad sense. For example, a printed circuit board with electronic components thereon can be considered an area representation, and information related to the electronic components or circuit parameters, etc., can be associated with the location of the electronic component. Movement of a position indicator and/or a magnifier could provide access to this information, as described for maps, and could provide magnified views, as described for maps. “Area representation” can be extended to layers of integrated circuits,or any appropriate object, assembly or topography having area, including, for example, three dimensional objects, and whether or not relief is also represented with any area. Thus, celestial representations are also encompassed within the term “area representation” even though celestial bodies area separated by three dimensional spaces. In such an embodiment, a magnifier feature can provide a detailed view of a celestial body while related information is displayed.
Furthermore, in some embodiments, the invention can include two or more simultaneously displayed area representations, each having an associated displayed detailed or magnified view. Two magnified views, each associated with a portion of each area representation, can be used, for example, to compare details or portions of the two or more area representations.
The invention may be implemented with many features in addition to those described herein. For example, a search function can be provided which extends beyond a single map or area representation. Thus, a map associated with the desired information can be located. Also, many variations on navigation and information drilling can be provided. For example, a first mouse click at a location may provide item information and a double mouse click may activate a link to a URL. Further, mouse clicking may activate a multimedia display (song or video clip). For example, mouse clicking a billboard can provide multimedia advertising.
Multimedia and other engaging presentations can be utilized in conjunction with the interactive area representation of the invention. For example, such presentations can include broadband streaming audio and video, animation, film clips, etc. Such presentations can be simply presented to a user or can be user-interactive. The presentations can be activated by various occurrences, such as the user clicking on a feature in a magnified or unmagnified view, or by simply moving a magnifier to a certain portion of an area representation or over or near a particular feature. Alternatively, such presentations can be randomly generated or otherwise generated independently of user input.