Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20030140313 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/348,115
Publication dateJul 24, 2003
Filing dateJan 21, 2003
Priority dateApr 26, 1999
Also published asUS6516329
Publication number10348115, 348115, US 2003/0140313 A1, US 2003/140313 A1, US 20030140313 A1, US 20030140313A1, US 2003140313 A1, US 2003140313A1, US-A1-20030140313, US-A1-2003140313, US2003/0140313A1, US2003/140313A1, US20030140313 A1, US20030140313A1, US2003140313 A1, US2003140313A1
InventorsKim Smith
Original AssigneeSmith Kim C.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method of creating default lists of content of probable interest
US 20030140313 A1
Abstract
A method, signal, system, and software program for identifying items of probable user interest. Information associated with user preferences and habits is maintained, and used in conjunction with information obtained from media search mechanisms, including electronic program guides and Internet browsers, to identify available content information that may be of interest to a user. Items identified as being of probable user interest are maintained in a record, and presented to users as a default list for initiating searches. No direct user input of preferences is required.
Images(11)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(20)
What is claimed is:
1. A method comprising the steps of:
obtaining information associated with available content information from a plurality of content sources of one or more types;
maintaining information associated with user preferences and habits; and
identifying items of probable user interest from the information associated with the available content information and the information associated with user preferences and habits.
2. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of maintaining a record of the items identified by said identifying step.
3. The method of claim 2 further comprising the step of sorting the record of identified items based on information associated with user preferences and habits.
4. The method of claim 2 further comprising the step of removing duplicate entries from the record of identified items.
5. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of identifying items of probable user interest includes the step of identifying items of probable user interest from the information associated with one content source of a first type from information associated with another content source of a second type.
6. A system comprising:
at least one processor;
memory operably associated with said processor; and
a program of instructions configured to be executed by said processor and stored in said memory, said program of instructions including instructions configured to obtain information associated with available content information from a plurality of content sources of one or more types, maintain information associated with user preferences and habits, identify items of probable user interest from said information associated with available content information and said information associated with user preferences and habits.
7. The system of claim 6 wherein said program of instructions is further configured to maintain a record of the items identified as being of probable user interest.
8. The system of claim 7 wherein said program of instructions is further configured to sort said record of identified items based on said information associated with user preferences and habits.
9. The system of claim 7 wherein said program of instructions is further configured to remove duplicate entries from said record of identified items.
10. The system of claim 6 wherein identifying items of probable user interest includes identifying items of probable user interest from the information associated with one content source of a first type from information associated with another content source of a second type.
11. A signal embedded in a propagation medium comprising:
at least one instruction configured to obtain information associated with available content information from a plurality of content sources of one or more types;
at least one instruction configured to maintain information associated with user preferences and habits; and
at least one instruction configured to identify items of probable user interest from said information associated with available content information and said information associated with user preferences and habits.
12. The signal of claim 11 further comprising at least one instruction configured to maintain a record of the items identified by said at least one instruction configured to identify.
13. The signal of claim 12 further comprising at least one instruction configured to sort said record of identified items based on information associated with user preferences and habits.
14. The signal of claim 12 further comprising at least one instruction configured to remove duplicate entries from said record of identified items.
15. The signal of claim 11 wherein said instruction configured to identify items of probable user interest includes identifying items of probable user interest from the information associated with one content source of a first type from information associated with another content source of a second type.
16. A computer readable medium tangibly embodying a program of instructions, implementing the following method:
obtaining information associated with available content information from a plurality of content sources of one or more types;
maintaining information associated with user preferences and habits; and
identifying items of probable user interest from said information associated with available content information and said information associated with user preferences and habits.
17. The computer readable medium of claim 16 wherein said program of instructions further implements maintaining a record of the items identified by said identifying step.
18. The computer readable medium of claim 17 wherein said program of instructions further implements sorting the record of identified items based on information associated with user preferences and habits.
19. The computer readable medium of claim 17 wherein said program of instructions further implements removing duplicate entries from the record of identified items.
20. The computer readable medium of claim 16 wherein identifying items of probable user interest includes identifying items of probable user interest from the information associated with one content source of a first type from information associated with another content source of a second type.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/354,052 filed on even date herewith entitled “A Method of Searching Across Media and Source Types” of common assignee herewith, Gateway Reference No. 98-0883, incorporated herein by reference.

[0002] U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/299,826 filed on even date herewith entitled “A Method of Maintaining Search Results Pages” of common assignee herewith, Gateway Reference No. 98-0881, incorporated herein by reference.

[0003] U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/374,781 filed on even date herewith entitled “Presenting Content Selection Options” of common assignee herewith, Gateway Reference No. 98-0880, incorporated herein by reference.

[0004] U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/298,005 filed on even date herewith entitled “Universal Content Database Structured Around Relationship Being ‘Like” of common assignee herewith, Gateway Reference No. 98-0882, incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0005] The present invention relates generally to methods for identifying items of probable interest to a user and more particularly to methods, systems, software, and signals for identifying items of probable user interest from user preferences and habits.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0006] A large part of making search mechanisms user friendly is successfully anticipating user preferences. In most cases, users must define their preferences in advance so that those preferences can be used by a system. One example of defining preferences in advance is found in most Internet browsers. A separate file of user preferences is completed by a user shortly after launching the browser for the first time. Most browsers have factory default settings which attempt to anticipate user preferences, but given the wide range of tastes and backgrounds of people using a given program, default settings rarely anticipate all of a user's preferences. Electronic program guides (EPGs) provide even less functionality than Internet browsers even though, as in the case of Internet browsers, EPGs generally allow users to define a few basic preferences.

[0007] Another shortcoming of EPGs and Internet browsers is that neither of them can identify items of probable user interest across a plurality of content sources of one or more types. For example, an Internet browser cannot anticipate the television program a user may desire to watch at 6 p.m. on Sundays, nor can an EPG identify what Internet site a user is likely to visit at 7 p.m. on Mondays.

[0008] Therefore, what is needed is a method, system, software, and signal for identifying items of probable user interest across a plurality of content sources of one or more types and capable of identifying user items of probable user interest from information associated with user preferences and habits and then configuring default states accordingly.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] Accordingly, the present invention provides a method comprising the steps of obtaining information associated with available content information from a plurality of content sources of one or more types, maintaining information associated with user preferences and habits, and identifying items of probable user interest from the information associated with the available content information and the information associated with user preferences and habits.

[0010] The present invention also provides a system comprising at least one processor, memory operably associated with the processor, and a program of instructions configured to be executed by the processor and stored in the memory. The program of instructions includes instructions configured to obtain information associated with available content information from a plurality of content sources of one or more types, maintain information associated with user preferences and habits, and identify items of probable user interest from the information associated with the available content information and the information associated with user preferences and habits.

[0011] The present invention further provides a signal embedded in a propagation medium comprising at least one instruction configured to obtain information associated with available content information from a plurality of content sources of one or more types, maintain information associated with user preferences and habits, and identify items of probable user interest from the information associated with the available content information and the information associated with user preferences and habits.

[0012] The present invention also provides a computer readable medium tangibly embodying a program of instructions, implementing the method of obtaining information associated with available content information from a plurality of content sources of one or more types, maintaining information associated with user preferences and habits, and identifying items of probable user interest from the information associated with the available content information and the information associated with user preferences and habits.

[0013] It is an object of the present invention to provide a method, system, signal, and software for identifying items of probable user interest from user preferences and habits.

[0014] It is a further object of the present invention to provide a record or list of items likely to be of interest to a user.

[0015] It is another object of the present invention to configure a system's default states to contain items likely to be of interest to a user.

[0016] An advantage of the present invention is that user preferences can be determined without requiring direct user input.

[0017] Another advantage of the present invention is that items of probable user interest relating to a first source or type of content can be determined from information associated with a second content type or source.

[0018] A further advantage of the present invention is that information associated with available content information is obtained from a plurality of content sources of one or more types.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] Other objects, advantages, features and characteristics of the present invention, as well as methods, operation and functions of related elements of structure, and the combination of parts and economies of manufacture, will become apparent upon consideration of the following description and claims with reference to the accompanying drawings, all of which form a part of this specification, wherein like reference numerals designate corresponding parts in the various figures, and wherein:

[0020]FIG. 1 illustrates a detailed block diagram showing a computer system according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0021]FIG. 2 illustrates a detailed block diagram showing a convergence system according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0022]FIG. 3 shows the desktop of a computer operating system's user interface typically employed on a computer system as in FIGS. 1 and 2, according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0023]FIG. 4 illustrates the graphical user interface of the present invention prior to utilization according to the preferred embodiment;

[0024]FIG. 5 illustrates the graphical user interface of the preferred embodiment of the present invention after a search has been initiated;

[0025]FIG. 6 illustrates how items are chosen to populate the television portion of a list of items of probable user interest according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0026]FIG. 7 illustrates how items are chosen to populate the DVD portion of a list of items of probable user interest according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0027]FIG. 8 illustrates how items are chosen to populate the Web portion of a list of items of probable user interest according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0028]FIG. 9 illustrates how items are chosen to populate the Games portion of a list of items of probable user interest according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention; and

[0029]FIG. 10 illustrates how items are chosen to populate the Music portion of a list of items of probable user interest according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

[0030] In the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific preferred embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that logical, mechanical and electrical changes may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. To avoid detail not necessary to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, the description may omit certain information known to those skilled in the art. The following detailed description is, therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of the present invention is defined only by the appended claims.

[0031] A representative hardware environment for practicing the present invention is depicted in FIG. 1, which illustrates a typical hardware configuration of an information handling system 100 in accordance with the present invention, having a central processing unit 105 such as a conventional microprocessor and a number of other units interconnected via at least one system bus 110. Information handling system 100 may be, for example, a portable or desktop Gateway computer or a Gateway Destination system (Gateway and Destination are trademarks of Gateway 2000, Inc.). Information handling system 100 shown in FIG. 1 includes random access memory (RAM) 115, read-only memory (ROM) 120 wherein the ROM 120 could also be erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM) or electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM), and input/output (I/O) adapter 125 for connecting peripheral devices such as disk units 130 and tape drives 135 to system bus 110, a user interface adapter 140 for connecting keyboard 145, mouse 150, speaker 155, microphone 160, and/or other user interface devices to system bus 110, communications adapter 165 for connecting information handling system 100 to an information network such as the Internet, and display adapter 170 for connecting system bus 110 to a display device such as monitor 175. Mouse 150 has a series of buttons 180, 185 and is used to control a cursor shown on monitor 175.

[0032] Referring next to FIG. 2, a system 200 is shown in general detail. Reference numerals or letters in FIG. 2 which are like, similar, or identical to the reference numerals or letters of FIG. 1 indicate like, similar, or identical components or features. External to system 200 is satellite 203 which in one preferred embodiment is a HS601 model operated by Hughes at a 101 degree west longitude geosynchronous orbital location. Satellite 203 transmits signals comprising 150 channels of modulated digital video, audio, and data at a frequency of about 12 Ghz. The satellite signals are received by system 200 by antenna 206 containing a low noise block converter amplifier. Antenna 206 is preferably about 18 inches in diameter and receives left-hand and right-hand circularly polarized signals between 12.2 and 12.7 Ghz. Antenna 206 provides a “down converted-spectrum” signal between 950 and 1450 MHZ via a coaxial cable or other suitable communication medium 209 to information handling system 100, such as a personal computer or other system or circuitry capable of processing data. Suitable antennas 206 are already being manufactured and sold by RCA corporation by direct sales and through numerous major retail chains such as Radio Shack.

[0033] System 100 contains circuitry and software to further process signals from the antenna, generally demodulating and decoding the signal to produce a VGA (video graphics adapter) signal. The VGA signal is provided via standard VGA compatible monitor cable 212 to drive large screen data quality monitor 175 suitable for viewing in a family room or entertainment room environment. System 100 provides for user input by means of remote controls 215 and 145. Remote control 215 comprises a hand-held size device with standard television controls and a numeric keypad and, in one embodiment, video cassette recorder (VCR) controls and a pointing device. It provides radio frequency (RF) or infrared (IR) control signals received by system 100. Remote control 145 is a full function personal computer keyboard with additional standard television and VCR controls, a pointing device which is preferably in the form of a touchpad, and it also provides RF control signals to system 100. RF control signals were selected over IR or hardwired in one embodiment due to the home entertainment environment. Monitor cable 212 is a standard type cable typically used on VGA display devices and comprises up to 15 electrical conductors interfacing with monitor 175 in a D-series shell connector. In one embodiment, full multimedia sourcing and destinationing of audio/video/data (A/V/D)) broadcast are provided for. Although the embodiment presented herein discusses the use of VGA signals, it should be mentioned that with an appropriate change in hardware, National Television Standard Committee (NTSC) compliant signals and NTSC compliant hardware will employ the present invention in the manner mentioned herein.

[0034] Information handling system 100 may include a tuner, tuner circuitry 280, or card capable of both tuning to multiple channels and receiving television information or signals in the form of the NTSC or Phase Alteration Line (PAL) form from any medium 116 carrying signals from satellite dish 206 which provides digital A/V/D signals from such sources as DirecTV or Primestar (DirecTV is a trademark of DirectTV, Inc., and Primestar is a trademark of Primestar Partners, L.P.). In another such embodiment, the signals carried on medium 209 provide analog A/V such as NTSC antenna signals. In another such embodiment, the signal carried on medium 218 from camera 221 provides analog A/V such as NTSC audio/video signals. In further embodiments, the signal carried on medium 224 from cable-data source 227 provides analog and/or digital A/V/D. In further such embodiments, the signal carried on medium 230 from Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) 233 provides data or phone signals such as integrated services digital network (ISDN) or plain old telephone system (POTS) signals. In one set of such embodiments, system 100 is programmed to automatically record analog signals, such as television programming, onto recordable media, such as a video tape in VCR 236 coupled to cable 239. In another such set of embodiments, system 100 is programmed to automatically record digital signals such as digital television programming, Digital Versatile Disk (DVD) programming, or compact disk read-only memory (CD-ROM) type audio onto recordable media such as recordable compact disks in CD/DVD jukebox 242 coupled to cable 245. CD/DVD jukebox 242 also plays CDS, CD-ROMs, or DVDs for use elsewhere. In another such embodiment, signals are sent to stereo surround system 248 for audio output to one or more speakers 155 and on cable 251 to TV 254. In one such embodiment, earphones 257 on cable 260 and game pad 263 on cable 266 provide additional input/output through remote control 145. Home network 269 is “smart wiring” used to transmit data and control within the home, coupled by cable 272 to system 100. Videoblaster 275 provides video signal processing on cable/connector 278. Cables 224, 209, 230, 218, 251, 239, 278, 245, 260, and 153 can be wired coupling or wireless, such as RF or IR.

[0035] One example of convergence system 200 is the Destination System using the DestiVu user or media interface manufactured and sold by Gateway 2000, Inc. In this manner, convergence system 200 is a fully functional computer integrated with a television, providing TV viewing (via broadcast, cable, satellite, VCR, digital disk, or other broadcast media) and personal computing functionality. This convergence of computer and television enables a user combined access to both television programs and information and computer related functionality such as computer information and programs and Internet access.

[0036] Although many of today's televisions employ many of the same hardware resources employed by computers, such as information handling system 100, it is possible that the present invention might be practiced in other electronic devices or networked electronic devices. For example, with the development of audio/video networking such as the recently proposed HAVi standard, television sets or other audio/video devices such as audio/video receivers and VCRs that do not themselves contain such resources could implement the present invention by using the resources of other devices on a network.

[0037] Referring next to FIG. 3, a detail of an operating system's graphical user interface, or GUI, as is typically displayed on monitor 175 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Reference numerals or letters in FIG. 3 which are like, similar, or identical to the reference numerals or letters of FIGS. 1-2 indicate like, similar, or identical components or features. The operating system shown in FIG. 3 is IBM's OS/2 (OS/2 is a trademark of International Business Machines Corporation); however, the present invention will work with DestiVu, Windows 98, Windows 95 (DestiVu is a trademark of Gateway 2000 Inc. and Windows 98 and Windows 95 are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation), or any other graphical user interface. This GUI includes cursor 300, desktop 305, three icons 310, two windows 315, 320, and dialog box 325, all of which are well known in the art. Dialog box 325 further contains two buttons 330, 335. Programs are represented by the graphical user interface as either icons 310 or windows 315, 320. The horizontal region along the top of a window is called the “title bar” 340, 345. A program window 315, 320 has the “focus” when it has been designated by the user or by the operating system to receive input from keyboard 145 or mouse 150. In OS/2®, the user gives the window focus by clicking a mouse button 180, 185 when cursor 300 is inside that window. Some operating systems, however, give a window the focus merely whenever cursor 300 is present within that window. The operating system indicates which program has the focus by changing the color of the focused window's title bar 340, 345.

[0038] A system for implementing the preferred embodiment of the present invention has been described in the previous paragraphs. A user interface practiced by the preferred embodiment of the present invention as illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 5 is described next. Reference numerals or letters in FIGS. 4 and 5 which are like, similar, or identical to the reference numerals or letters of FIGS. 1-3 indicate like, similar, or identical components or features.

[0039] Referring first to FIG. 4, a graphical user interface of the present invention is illustrated. There are five basic display areas implemented by the present invention, 410, 420, 430, 450, 470. The first area 410 to be discussed is used for displaying tuned media content. Tuned media display area 410 uses the entire available display area 305 when no other objects are displayed. This means that when a user is viewing tuned media content, for instance a broadcast television program, and not displaying any search or program information, the tuned media content is viewed at full size. If, however, a user decides that he wants to access information relating to a program being viewed or wishes to conduct a search for another program, then tuned media viewing area 410 is scaled to take up only a portion of the screen, thereby allowing other areas generated by the present invention 420, 430, 450, 470 to be displayed. Tuned media display area 410 is not restricted to displaying only broadcast media streams; it can also display media of other types or from other sources such as Internet information, cable television programs, satellite programs, or even a pre-recorded video cassette or DVD program.

[0040] Still referring to FIG. 4, the next display area to be discussed is page index display area 450. Page index display area 450 consists of user-selectable objects 451 which are linked to pages containing categorized information. These pages containing categorized information are maintained in a page index. In one embodiment of the present invention, the page index includes links 451 to a TV page, a home theater page, a games page, a web page, and a music page. These pages contain categorized information, possibly provided by a user, about preferred media content. As an example of how user preferences could be entered into category pages, suppose that a user enjoys listening to a local country music station KTRY, a rock music station KROK, and an easy listening station KEZZ. In one embodiment of the present invention, users can conduct searches for available radio stations using one of the search mechanisms 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, accessible through the present invention's user interface. A list of available radio stations is then displayed in search results area 420. Once a list is displayed, a user can select which stations to add to the music page, thereby creating a list of favorite radio stations. From then on, whenever the user selects the music page 453, his favorite radio stations, KTRY, KROK, and KEZZ, will be displayed in the search results area 420. Similar methods can be used to store information in the other category guides 451. In the preferred method of the present invention, a user can select which category guides are initially displayed when the system is started.

[0041] Referring now to FIG. 5, in addition to the default category guides 451 displayed each time the graphical user interface 305 is initialized, page links 552, 554, 555 are added to the page index every time a unique search is performed. For example, suppose a user is looking for something to watch on television, and the user initiates a search using EPG button 431 for action movies currently showing. Only two action movies are returned by the search, and the user is not interested. The user next initiates a search for dramas currently showing. Four dramas are returned as a result of the search, and a new entry 555 is made in the page index, but again, the user is not interested. If the user changes his mind and decides to go back and see what action movies are showing, he does not need to initiate another search using the EPG button. Instead, he can simply go to the page index area 450 as illustrated in FIG. 5 and click on the link 554 to display the results of his previous search for action movies. The page index area 450 is not reset with each new search, instead, each search is saved until either the user discards the search results or the user terminates the session. If there are too many pages to be displayed on the screen in the area provided, scroll bar 460 is generated allowing the user to easily move through the list 450 of indexed pages.

[0042] Refer again to FIG. 4 for a discussion of search results display area 420. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, search results area 420 displays information returned from searches initiated through one of the present invention's search mechanisms 422, 423, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 451. Options 422, 423 will be detailed at a later time. The search results are displayed in a hyperlink format that allows a user to select an item for immediate consumption simply by clicking on displayed object 424. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, displayed object 424 is the name of a program returned as a result of a search; however, alternate embodiments allow the object to take other forms such as a button or an icon of some sort. Below each item returned as a result of a search, the present invention implements two other linked objects 422, 423. These objects, which can take the form of user-selectable buttons, allow users to easily initiate a search for available content information related to displayed object 424. Button 422 is linked to a search routine for finding similar content only within the same media category as a displayed item. Button 423 is linked to a search mechanism that returns related media items regardless of what media category those items are in. For example, suppose a user has selected games search item 452 from page index area 450. The present invention has returned a list of two games 424 displayed in area 420 that the user has stored in the games page, for example, Monopoly and Risk. Below each of the game titles 424, two user-selectable objects 422, 423 linked to search mechanisms are displayed. Object 422, if selected, would initiate a search for similar items within the games category, while object 423, if selected, would initiate a search for similar media content across any media type. Suppose, for instance, that the user is considering the game of Risk. If the user were to select search mechanism 422 to return games similar to Risk, the present invention may return the game of chess, but it would not return information on a news broadcast covering Bobby Fisher. However, if the user had selected object 423 that initiates the search for related items regardless of the media type or category, then not only would the game of chess be returned but so would a news article about Bobby Fisher. The present invention, as illustrated in FIG. 5, may also return an Internet address relating to chess, such as www.chess.com. If either of these two searches 422, 423 were to be performed, the present invention would add a page link 552 in page index area 450. Adding a link 552, 554, 555 for each unique search allows users to back-track easily and quickly find desired content information.

[0043] The next area to be discussed, area 430, is provided in the preferred embodiment of the present invention to display user-selectable objects 431, 432, 433, 434, 435 linking to information selection mechanisms including alternate media guides 431, 435 and search mechanisms 432, 433, 434. These links are provided in anticipation of a user not wanting to use the pre-defined categories 451 provided by the present invention. For instance, object 431 may link to an EPG provided by a local cable company, and object 434 may link to a web browser or possibly an Internet search engine.

[0044] Providing a page index 450 and related-item search links 422, 423 allows basic users, or users unfamiliar with advanced navigation techniques, to easily find content across many kinds of media, while the links to alternate guides 431, 435 and search mechanisms 432, 433, 434 allow advanced users, or those more comfortable searching detailed guides, to search in any manner they prefer.

[0045] The final display item is a display options button 470 that allows users to control the amount of detail included in the displayed information. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, display options button 470 is designed to toggle between a verbose mode which displays a great deal of information, in area 420 about programs identified during a search, and a mode which displays only a program's title 424.

[0046] Each of the display areas discussed must have some initial, or default, state to use when system 100, implementing the present invention, is initially powered on or when a new session is started. The initial state can be dictated by a user's direct input, as described earlier, however, the preferred embodiment of the present invention provides for the initial state of tuned media display area 410, page index display area 450, and search results display area 420 to be populated by information associated with currently available items of probable user interest identified from information associated with user preferences and habits.

[0047] A method used by the preferred embodiment of the present invention to identify items of probable user interest, as illustrated in FIGS. 6-10, will be discussed next. Reference numerals or letters in FIGS. 6-10 which are like, similar, or identical to the reference numerals or letters of FIGS. 1-5 indicate like, similar, or identical components or features.

[0048] Referring first to FIG. 6, the generation of the television portion of a record or list of items of probable user interest is discussed. In order for items of probable user interest to be identified, the system must be aware of available media content. The present invention obtains information associated with available content information including television scheduling and program information 610 from a search mechanism. This search mechanism could be a dedicated television search mechanism such as an EPG, or a search mechanism for a consolidated database containing information associated with various media types and sources. This television information is then used, along with information associated with user preferences and habits, to construct a record or list of items likely to be of interest to a user.

[0049] The preferred embodiment of the present invention maintains information associated with user preferences and habits in separate history files or databases; however, it is not necessary for the files to be maintained separately. Maintaining information associated with user preferences and habits in a single database utilizing separate information categories will work as well, and numerous methods of doing so are obvious to one skilled in the art. Some of the databases maintained by the present invention and illustrated in FIG. 6 are favorites list 612, most watched channels 614, program reminders 616, most watched programs 618, channel normally tuned 620, Internet information 622, and most watched movie genres 624. Any of the databases used by the present invention may be maintained by other systems or programs, or they may be maintained at remote locations.

[0050] The television program information 610 is used along with the information in databases 612, 614, 618, 620, 622, 624 to extract currently available programs likely to be of interest to a user. For an item to be considered to be of probable user interest, it must fall into one of the seven categories illustrated in FIG. 6: 1) current programs on favorite channels 640, 2) current programs on most watched channels 642, 3) programs for which reminders have been set 644, 4) currently available most watched programs 646, 5) currently available program on the channel normally tuned at the current time of day 648, 6) currently available programs related to Internet preferences and usage 650, and 7) currently available programs that fit a user's genre tastes 652. All items returned as members of one of the listed categories are compiled into a single record. The items are ranked according to the number of times each item appears in the compiled record, based on the assumption that the more occurrences of a given item, the more likely that item is to be of interest to a user. The items in the record are then listed in ranked order, and duplicate items are removed to prevent redundancy.

[0051] A number of points should be mentioned about the preceding discussion. One important point is that the criteria for determining probable user interest include membership of items in one of the aforementioned categories; however, the present invention should not be limited to the few items presented above. Numerous other criteria, evident upon examination of users' preferences and habits, will be obvious to one skilled in the art. Another point of clarification is that the actions of sorting, compiling and filtering items into a list do not necessarily need to be done in that order. For instance, a list may be compiled then sorted and filtered. Also, the particular order of items in the list may be from most probable to least probable, least probable to most probable, or any other logical ordering scheme. Finally, multiple preference and habit databases may be maintained to allow the invention to identify probable items of interest for multiple users.

[0052] Refer now to FIG. 7 for an illustration of the creation of a DVD/Home Theater list identifying items of probable user interest according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention. Information about available DVD titles 730 is obtained from a database, and information associated with user preferences and habits, including the most recently watched DVD movie 710 and the most often watched DVD titles 720, are used to create list 740. The preferred embodiment of the present invention can utilize alternate criteria, such as a genre criteria, for identifying items of probable user interest. Other criteria could be used by one skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

[0053] As illustrated in FIG. 8, a history of Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) visited 810 and user selected bookmarks 820 are combined with information 830 about URLs that may have time sensitive information or that may have been updated since they were last accessed. The most recently visited URLs 840, most often visited URLs 850 and television program information 860 are used to determine items for the Web portion of a list 870 of items of probable user interest. One difference between the Web portion of the list and the television portion is the criteria for ranking the items within the list. For the Web portion of the list, if an item is determined to contain time sensitive information, that item is ranked as having a high probability of user interest. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, television program information is used as a factor in determining Internet sites that may be of user interest and vice-versa. The preferred embodiment of the present invention makes the reasonable assumption that if a user is interested in, for example, an Internet site containing information about baseball statistics, then that same user is likely to be interested in a baseball game broadcast on television.

[0054] The present invention is not limited to the content types previously mentioned. FIG. 9 illustrates the categories of information used to determine whether a game is likely to be of interest to a user. The categories include a list of all games resident on a user's system 910, a list of all games hosted from the Internet on a user's system 920, the most recently played games 930, and most often played games 940. The items identified as being of probable user interest are sorted, compiled and indexed in Games list 950, in a manner similar to the television portion of the list.

[0055] The last portion of the list to be discussed is the music portion illustrated in FIG. 10. All music titles available 1010 from sources such as radio, satellite, cable, or the Internet are combined with a user-defined favorite music channel list 1020 to make a semi-final list of currently available music titles 1060. The most recently played CD or DVD 1070, as well as the most often played CD and DVD are selected from the list of all available CD and DVD titles available to the system 1030, and added to the music portion of the list of items of probable user interest. The most recently tuned music broadcast channel 1040 and the most often tuned music broadcast channel 1050 are used in combination with the semi-final list of currently available music titles to generate the remaining items in the music portion of the list 1080.

[0056] All of the individual portions of the list can be combined into a single record and sorted according to probability that the user will be interested. The record can then be presented to the user in any number of formats. In the preferred method of the present invention, each portion of the record is stored as a page of related information and presented as user selectable default page 451 in the page index area 450 of a GUI.

[0057] Although an embodiment of the present invention has been shown and described in detail herein, along with certain variants thereof, many other varied embodiments that incorporate the teachings of the invention may be easily constructed by those skilled in the art. Accordingly, the present invention is not intended to be limited to the specific form set forth herein, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents, as can be reasonably included within the spirit and scope of the invention.

[0058] Although the invention has been described with a certain degree of particularity, it should be recognized that elements thereof may be altered by persons skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. One of the preferred implementations of the invention is as sets of instructions resident in the random access memory 115 of one or more computer or information handling systems configured generally as described in FIGS. 1-10. Until required by the computer system, the set of instructions may be stored in another computer readable memory, for example, in a hard disk drive or in a removable memory such as an optical disk for eventual use in a CD-ROM drive or a floppy disk for eventual use in a floppy disk drive. Further, the set of instructions can be stored in the memory of another computer and transmitted over a local area network or a wide area network, such as the Internet, where the transmitted signal could be a signal propagated through a medium such as an ISDN line, or the signal may be propagated through an air medium and received by a local satellite whereupon being transferred to the computer or information handling system of the preferred embodiment where the signal is a composite signal comprising a carrier signal, and contained within the carrier signal is the desired information containing at least one computer program instruction implementing the invention and may be downloaded as such when desired by the user. One skilled in the art would appreciate that the physical storage and/or transfer of the sets of instructions physically changes the medium upon which it is stored electrically, magnetically, or chemically so that the medium carries computer readable information. The invention is limited only by the following claims and their equivalents.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6694363 *Jun 2, 2000Feb 17, 2004Kabushiki Kaisha ToshibaNetwork equipment and networking method
US7698297 *Mar 12, 2004Apr 13, 2010Apple Inc.Accessing digital media
US7921221 *Jan 22, 2008Apr 5, 2011Minborg Invent I Goteborg AbMethod and apparatus for obtaining digital objects in a communication network
US20080040354 *Feb 26, 2007Feb 14, 2008Qualcomm IncorporatedSystem and method for media content delivery
Classifications
U.S. Classification715/255, 715/221, 707/E17.058
International ClassificationG06F17/30
Cooperative ClassificationY10S707/99934, Y10S707/99933, G06F17/30699
European ClassificationG06F17/30T3
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 6, 2003ASAssignment
Owner name: GATEWAY, INC., SOUTH DAKOTA
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:GATEWAY 2000, INC.;REEL/FRAME:014027/0614
Effective date: 20030430