US 20060064645 A1
The rich media communication system of the present invention provides a user with a three-dimensional communication space or theater having rich media functions. The user may be represented in the theater as a segmented video image or as an avatar. The user is also able to communicate by presenting images, videos, audio files, or text within the theater. The system may include tools for allowing lowered cost of animation, improved collaboration between users, presentation of episodic content, web casts, newscasts, infotainment, advertising, music clips, video conferencing, customer support, distance learning, advertising, social spaces, and interactive game shows and content.
42. A rich media communication system, comprising:
a user interface having a background presentation scene with rich media targets onto which a user can direct rich media content, and having selectable graphical representations associated with the user;
a server to provide the user interface, having the rich media content and a selected graphical representation of the user therein, at a remote location; and
a directory to locate users that are capable of communicating with each other via their respective user interfaces using rich media presentations of rich media content in conjunction with their respective selected graphical representation, wherein users are organized into user-defined groups in the directory.
43. A rich media communication system as defined in
44. A rich media communication system as defined in
45. A rich media communication system as defined in
46. A rich media communication system as defined in
47. A rich media communication system as defined in
48. A rich media communication system as defined in
49. A rich media communication system as defined in
50. A rich media communication system as defined in
51. A rich media communication system as defined in
52. A method for rich media communications, the method comprising:
providing a communicator window that can present rich media content;
presenting a particular character in the communicator window, wherein the presentation of the particular character is user-selectable from a plurality of different graphical representations, the selected particular character corresponding to a user of the communicator window;
providing capability to switch between different graphical representations of the particular character during communication in the communicator window; and
organizing rich media communications users in a directory of groups, each user being associated with their own respective independent communicator windows that can present rich media content and respective graphical representations.
53. A method for rich media communication as defined in
54. A system, comprising:
means for providing an independently customizable user interface window having a representation associated with a particular rich media communication user;
means for providing a media target in the user interface window onto which the particular user may direct rich media content;
means for communicating the user interface window to a remote location; and
means for organizing rich media communications users in a directory of user-defined communities, each user being associated with their own respective independent user interface having rich media content, the communities being organizable in hierarchical levels, at least one hierarchical level being associated with a moderator for that level.
55. The system of
means for receiving rich media elements from a plurality of media sources and generating a multiplexed rich media communication bit stream; and
means for transmitting the bit stream to a receiver to allow the receiver to decompose the bit stream into rich media elements, and to render the rich media elements in the user interface.
56. A rich media communication system, comprising:
a first window usable to invoke a plurality of rich media communication tools, the rich media communication tools including:
a second window usable to allow a user of the first window to select a three-dimensional avatar representation associated with the user and further usable to allow the user to control presentation of the selected avatar representation and of rich media content to other rich media communications users;
a third window usable to present rich media content associated with the other rich media communications users, at least some of the other rich media communication users being associated with their own first windows that are usable to invoke rich media communication tools; and
a hierarchical directory to organize the rich media communications users into user defined groups.
57. The system of
58. The system of
59. The system of
60. An apparatus, comprising:
a user interface usable to invoke a plurality of tools, the tools including:
a first tool usable to allow a user of the user interface to select from among a plurality of graphical representations associated with the user and further usable to allow the user to control presentation of a selected graphical representation and of rich media content to other rich media communications users, the first tool further being usable to allow the user to switch between different graphical representations associated with the user during a communication session on the user interface;
a second tool usable to allow the user to create at least one of the selectable graphical representations associated with the user; and
a third tool usable to allow the user to control presentation of graphical communications from other rich media communications users that have their own user interfaces; and
a hierarchical directory to organize the rich media communications users into user defined groups.
61. The apparatus of
62. The apparatus of
The present invention relates to multimedia communications, and more particularly, to a rich media communication system based on user combinations of computer graphics, video, still images, audio, and text.
Communication formats have evolved from text to interactive audio-visual communications. Recent virtual reality models generally involve the creation of a shared-space world in which the persons involved in the experience each represent a character in the shared-space world. The user representations, often referred to as avatars, in general consist of video representations or of graphic representations that are animated by a mouse or keyboard. Such virtual reality models often have been limited to real-time interactive communications. Such scenarios and representations limit the creativity and expression available using rich media communication formats.
Accordingly, there exists a need for a system and related tools for providing rich media communications. The present invention satisfies these needs.
The present invention is directed to a system, and related method, having tools for generating and presenting rich media communications. The tools allow improved and lower cost rich media communications.
The invention may be embodied in a rich media communication system having a theater and a player. The theater includes a representation associated with a person. The representation provides a choice of visual presence for the person. The player presents the theater at a remote location.
An alternative embodiment is a rich media theater controller having a theater window and a presentation control. The theater window has a background presentation scene. The presentation control selects a character for a presentation in the theater. The character presentation may be selected from an avatar, a blue screen cutout of the character, or a plain video presentation.
The theater window may have a media target onto which the person may direct media, such as a video stream or audio, for display or play. The visual representation may be an avatar representation that is driven by visual sensing of the person. A rich media messaging directory service or an online directory may be used for locating other users capable of communicating with rich media presentations. The rich media communication system may include a status window indicating rich media communications received, the user's visibility to other users, the user's availability to other users, and the user's automatic response to rich media communication messages from other users. The rich media communication users may enter into user defined communities organized in hierarchical levels. Also, a theater window may be published to a rich media website.
The rich media communication system may include a message center having a message reader. The message reader may have a text message window and a rich media presentation window. The rich media window may be toggled off such that a user may first read only a text message in the text message window before requesting transmission of a rich media message for presentation in the presentation window.
In another embodiment, the rich media communication system includes a server infrastructure, a content client, and a plurality of communication clients. The server infrastructure provides web hosting, message hosting and communication services. The content client has an authoring tool for generating a rich media communication. The plurality of communicator clients display the rich media communication at remote locations using the server infrastructure.
Other features and advantages of the present invention should be apparent from the following description of the preferred embodiments taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, which illustrate, by way of example, the principles of the invention.
The rich media communication system of the present invention provides a user with a three-dimensional (3D) communication space or theater having rich media functions. The user may be represented in the theater as a segmented video image or as an avatar. The user is also able to communicate by presenting images, videos, audio files, or text within the theater. The system may include tools for allowing lowered cost of animation, improved collaboration between users, presentation of episodic content, web casts, newscasts, infotainment, advertising, music clips, video conferencing, customer support, distance learning, advertising, social spaces, and interactive game shows and content.
The communication system may use existing Internet protocols, communication channels and bandwidth reducing techniques to allow rich media communications over limited bandwidth channels. For example, a theater may be created which has an individualized space with media targets and an image or representation of the user. The theater space is transmitted to a receiver only once. The user representation may be represented by an avatar animated using low-bandwidth control signals, or alternatively, by a bandwidth reducing video cutout.
The rich media communication system of the invention allows each person to create his own world in which he is presented to others. The person's individual creativity may provide enhanced entertainment and attention retaining value to the communications space.
The rich media communication system of the present invention may be embodied in an application window for a communicator shown in
Under the file menu 16, a previously saved session file or environment may be opened 22, the current session may be saved 24, or the program quit 26. Under the edit menu 18 are context sensitive cut, copy, and paste. Also, an option exists for editing user preferences. Under the window menu 20 are options to open the variety of child window tools. As discussed in more detail below, the tools may include a player 28, a controller 30, a chat module 32, a monitor 34, a status window 36, an editor 38, a message center 40, directories 42, a card editor 44, an address book 46, preferences 48, a block list 50, a message reader 52, and a message composer 54. Through the window menu option, a communication tool may be invoked and an associated window pops up on the background. As shown in
The controller window 30 is shown in
In the center of the controller 30 is a display region 62 that provides a working area for constructing a rich media communication session. The controller may provide a visual representation of a user using four buttons, 64, 66, 68 and 70, that gives the user media control of the user's appearance. The buttons are radio buttons that immediately switch between available visual modes. The modes include an avatar mode, a video mode, a cutout mode, or a show nothing mode. If a mode is not available in particular theater, the associated button is grayed out.
The controller window 30 may be organized as a theater that provides a stage on which a representation 72 of the user may be displayed and provides media targets, 74 and 76, on which selected media from a file manager (
The controller 30 also includes control buttons for controlling the media in the targets. The particular media target is selected by clicking on the target and its properties may be controlled using the control buttons. If no immediate target is currently selected, the media controls are grayed out.
The controller 30 includes a camera button 86 which, when toggled, brings up a camera control user interface overlaid on top of the window. The controller may also include a loudspeaker button 88 that controls the volume of the audio coming from the user's microphone. The controller also includes a behavior button 90 which, when invoked, pops up a pop-up menu of all the available behaviors for a currently displayed avatar. The user may then select one of the behaviors for the avatar. The pop-up menu also shows any hot keys associated with particular behaviors. The controller also includes mutually exclusive radio buttons, 92 and 94, for move/select. When the select button is selected, a mouse click on an object causes the media controls to be directed to that target. When the move button is selected, a mouse click on an object brings up a move interface on top of the object. Also, object translation and rotation may be performed using mouse clicks and or drags.
The controller 30 includes a recorder for savings of a user's session. The recorder includes buttons, 96, 98 and 100, for saving the recorded session as a file, making a message out of the recorded session, or making a web page out of the recorded session. The controller also includes a directory button 102, an address book button 104, and a friend's button 106.
The monitor window 34 (
The player window 28 is shown in
The file manager includes three buttons, 120, 122 and 124, for toggling the file manager between the theater file manager 126, the avatar file manager 128, and the media file manager 130. The theater file manager 126, shown in
The message center window 40 is for handling rich media communication messages. The messages may be either just text, text with attached rich media, or only rich media. The inbox 132 of the message center is shown in
The message list 148 is a columnar table of all the messages that the user has received. Using a mouse to click on any of the column headings sorts the message list by that heading. Double clicking the mouse on the subject of the message opens that message in a new message reader window. If a rich media attachment is included in the message, an icon will be displayed in a media icon column. Rich media sessions which have been included as an attachment and which have been downloaded will appear as an icon in a file column. Rich media sessions which have not been downloaded may be marked for downloading in a download column. A triangle icon 150 associated with the words “download manager” is provided in the message center window 40. When the download manager triangle icon is selected, associated buttons are provided for allowing the user to control downloading of rich media to a local hard disk. A “get attachment” button 152 allows the user to download rich media associated with the currently selected message. A “get marked attachment” 154 button allows a user to download rich media in marked messages. A “get all attachments” button 156 allows the user to download any rich media which has not been downloaded. A stop button 158 allows user to halt the download process. A downloading message indicator 160 may show how much more of a rich media component is left for downloading both as a visual indicator and as a percentage. The current download speed also may be indicated.
By selecting an outbox button 136 of the message center, as shown in
The message reader window 50 is a two-part window that allows a user to play messages. When the reader is selected or a message is selected for playing, the first top portion 174 of the reader indicates whom the message is from, the subject of the message, and associated message text. The size of the rich media component for downloading is also shown in the message window. The user may toggle the second half 176 of the reader window, which allows the user to display the rich media portion of the message. When the rich media portion 176 is selected, the media player opens in the bottom portion of the window and the rich media starts streaming and playing in the media player window. A download indicator 178 shows the progress of the rich media download.
An editor window 38, shown in
An avatar editor window allows a user to generate an avatar that looks and appears similar to the user. A wizard allows the user to select a head geometry that is similar to the head geometry of the user. A new avatar is generated based on an image of the user. Alternatively an existing avatar may be edited to the satisfaction or the user. The avatar may be animated or driven by wavelet-based facial motion capture as described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/188,079 (WO 99/53443 A1), which is incorporated herein by reference.
The avatar window includes a wizard that leads the user through a sequence of steps for allowing the user to improve the accuracy of tracking of the avatar tracker. The avatar wizard may include a tutor face that prompts the user to make a number of expressions and varying head poses. A position is taken for each image and facial features are automatically located for each face image. The user has the opportunity to manually correct the positions of the automatically located features.
The status window 36, shown in
A user card editor window 38 is shown in
An address book or card manager 46 is shown in
A directory 42 associated with the rich media communication system is shown in
The hierarchal levels of the directory may be cities, neighborhoods, houses, and rooms. Cities and neighborhoods may be put in place by server staff. Houses and rooms may be built by users. Each hierarchal level has an information button. When activated, a rich media message plays describing the location. To build a house, a user clicks on a house builder button next to a neighborhood, and to build a room, a user clicks on a builder button next to a house. Rooms in houses may have bulletin boards upon which users may leave or read messages. Entering a room is similar to entering a conventional chat room. Each live member of the room or house appears as a thumbnail with his theater next to his name.
A block diagram of an embodiment of a rich media communication system 210 of the invention is shown in
The server includes a web server 232, message hosting 234, and communication services 236. The server also includes resource information and parameters for each user allowing other users to engage in direct communication with a user based on the parameters stored on the server.
Clients of other users may include a personal communicator 218 having only a player window or may include the authoring tools described above. A client side personal communicator 218 is shown in more detail in
A flow diagram of the rich media communications data or bit stream is shown in
Although the foregoing discloses the preferred embodiments of the present invention, it is understood that those skilled in the art may make various changes to the preferred embodiments without departing form the scope of the invention. The invention is defined only by the following claims.