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Publication numberUS20080207329 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/032,605
Publication dateAug 28, 2008
Filing dateFeb 15, 2008
Priority dateFeb 20, 2007
Also published asUS20080208749
Publication number032605, 12032605, US 2008/0207329 A1, US 2008/207329 A1, US 20080207329 A1, US 20080207329A1, US 2008207329 A1, US 2008207329A1, US-A1-20080207329, US-A1-2008207329, US2008/0207329A1, US2008/207329A1, US20080207329 A1, US20080207329A1, US2008207329 A1, US2008207329A1
InventorsAndrew Wallace, David A. W. Snelling, Anatole B. Chen
Original AssigneeAndrew Wallace, Snelling David A W, Chen Anatole B
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and system of enabling communication activities using bridge between real world and proprietary environments
US 20080207329 A1
Abstract
The present invention is directed to a system, apparatus, and method for enabling communications and other forms of interaction between participants in a gaming or other form of virtual environment and the real world, or between a participant in one virtual environment and a participant in a second virtual environment. In particular, systems are provided to share presence information between participants, including information relating to their images and commercial activities. The presence information is user information that is used by real-time messaging systems to represent the user's current presence and identity. The presence information of a user is presented to other users to help them to decide when or if to communicate with the user.
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Claims(41)
1. A computer implemented method for providing a message service within a cross world environment by utilizing an intermediary system that verifies a user's identity, the method comprising:
receiving a request to engage in a communication via the message service;
obtaining an active identity of a first user, the active identity being selected to represent the first user for the communication;
generating a user presence of the first user, the user presence including the active identity of the first user and information about a proprietary world corresponding to the active identity;
obtaining a buddy list of the first user;
presenting a user presence of each user listed on the buddy list to the first user on a user device;
transmitting the user presence of the first user to each user on the buddy list;
receiving from the first user an identity of a second user; and
facilitating the communication between the first user and the second user.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing the first user with the list of proprietary identities associated with the first user in order to assist the first user in selecting the active identity for the user presence.
3. The method of claim 2, further comprising identifying the proprietary world corresponding to the first user's active identity wherein the first user's active identity is defined in the proprietary world.
4. The method of claim 3, further comprising presenting a list of the users who own at least one proprietary world identity defined in the identified proprietary world, wherein the first user selects the second user from the list of the users.
5. The method of claim 3, wherein the user presence of the first user includes an indicator representing reputation information of the first user.
6. The method of claim 5, wherein the reputation information is evaluated by a community related to the identified proprietary world.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein obtaining an active identity of a first user includes obtaining a proprietary identity that was specified as a default active identity.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the user presence of the first user includes information about whether the active identity has been verified.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein the user presence of the first user includes information about when the active identity has been verified.
10. The method of claim 1, wherein the user presence includes a graphic representation of the active identity of the first user.
11. The method of claim 1, further comprising receiving a request to add a third user in a buddy list of the first user.
12. The method of claim 11, further comprising if the third user is new to the message service, inviting the third user to register with the message service.
13. The method of claim 11, further comprising:
if the third user has registered with the message service, adding the third user to the buddy list of the first user; and
notifying the third user with a message indicating that the third user is added to the buddy list of the first user.
14. The method of claim 1, wherein the communication is facilitated via a chatting message board.
15. The method of claim 1, wherein the chatting message board supports a commerce transaction between the first user and the second user.
16. The method of claim 1, wherein users in the chatting message board communicate via real time chatting.
17. The method of claim 1, wherein the user device is one of a mobile device, a wireless computing device, a PDA, or a personal computer.
18. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
if the first user is new to the messaging service, registering a real identity of the first user and a plurality of proprietary identities of the first user; and
assigning a registered identity that is associated with the real identity and the plurality of proprietary identities.
19. The method of claim 18, wherein each proprietary identity is verified as to whether the first user is an owner of the proprietary identity through the intermediary system.
20. The method of claim 1, wherein the first user maintains a plurality of user presences at a given time.
21. The method of claim 20, wherein each user presence is displayed only to a subset of the buddy list.
22. The method of claim 21, wherein criteria is used to filter each subset of the buddy list.
23. A system for providing a message service within a cross world environment wherein the system is communicatively connected to an identity service system that verifies a user's proprietary identity, the system comprising:
a managing component for:
providing a list of proprietary identities associated with a first user when the first user logs onto the system;
receiving from the first user an active identity selected from the list of proprietary identities associated with the first user; and
generating a user presence of the first user, the user presence including the active identity;
a message agent component for:
receiving from the first user a request for a message service;
receiving, from the first user, content and information about at least one recipient;
generate a message including the content and the user presence of the first user; and
forwarding the message to the at least one recipient,
wherein the managing component forwards the request to the message agent component.
24. The system of claim 23, wherein the message agent component is configure to present to the first use with a user presence of each user on the buddy list of the first user.
25. The system of claim 24, wherein each user on the buddy list of the first user has agreed to receive a message from the user presence of the first user.
26. The system of claim 24, wherein the first user selects the at least one recipient from the users on the buddy list.
27. The system of claim 26, wherein if the message is an email message, real identities of the at least one recipient and the first user are obtained.
28. The system of claim 27, wherein the real identities of the at least one recipient and the first user are included as meta data in the email message.
29. The system of claim 26, wherein the real identities of the at least one recipient and the first user are hidden from viewing.
30. The system of claim 23, wherein if the first user is new to the presence service, the managing component registers the first user with a real identity and a plurality of proprietary identities of the first user.
31. The system of claim 30, wherein upon registration, the managing component assigns a registered identifier to the first user, the registered identifier being associated with the real identity of the first user.
32. The system of claim 31, wherein each proprietary identity is verified as to whether the first user is an owner of the proprietary identity, through the identity service system.
33. The system of claim 23, wherein the message is forwarded via a real time chatting.
34. The system of claim 23, wherein the message agent component receives a response to the message from the at least one recipient, which forwards the response to the first user via the real time chatting.
35. The system of claim 23, wherein the message is forwarded via an email.
36. The system of claim 23, wherein the message agent component enables users to communicate via exchanging a set of commands.
37. The system of claim 23, wherein the set of commands are predefined.
38. A computer implemented method for managing a user presence of a user in a cross world environment wherein a user registers a proprietary identity to represent the user's real identity for the financial transaction, the proprietary identity being verified through a third party service, the method comprising:
receiving a request for a presence service;
obtaining an active identity of a first user, the active identity selected to represent the first user;
generating a user presence of the first user, wherein the user presence including graphic representation of the active identity of the first user, information about a proprietary world corresponding to the identity and verification information;
obtaining the buddy list of the first user; and
transmitting the user presence of the first user to each user on the buddy list.
39. The computer implemented method of claim 38, further comprising:
receiving a request to add a second user to the buddy list of the first user;
if the second user has registered with the service,
adding an active identity of the second user to the buddy list of the first user; and
presenting the user presence of the first user to the second user,
wherein the user presence of the first user is updated as a presence status of the first user changes.
40. The computer implemented method of claim 38, wherein the user presence of the first user is re-transmitted to each user on the buddy list as the information included in the user presence of the first user changes.
41. The computer implemented method of claim 38, wherein the user presence of the first user is re-transmitted to each user on the buddy list at a predetermined interval.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims benefit to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/890,808, filed Feb. 20, 2007, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference. The present application also claims benefit to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60,892,599, filed Mar. 2, 2007, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates to methods of enabling commerce, communications, and other activities between participants in proprietary environments such as those found in on-line games, and more specifically, to an inventive identity and reputation platform and its use to facilitate commerce and other types of interactions while maintaining anonymity and other desirable qualities of participants' interactions with the environments.

Computer and video gaming, and participation in virtual on-line communities have grown to be a popular leisure activity as well as a significant source of revenue for software and game companies. The popularity of such games and virtual communities, and the development of new technologies has naturally resulted in efforts to extend those types of experiences to other platforms (e.g., mobile phones, PDAs, television sets, etc.) as well as to the development of different types of gaming or interactive experiences. One of the newer types of gaming experiences is that termed Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs), also know as Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing games (MMORPG). This type of gaming experience has developed in response to the availability of Internet connectivity and broadband access to the Internet.

In a typical MMO, a large number of players participate in the same gaming environment (or parallel versions of the same game) using the Internet or another suitable network to provide connectivity. The result is a real-time (or pseudo real-time) gaming experience involving multiple players who may act as individuals or be part of a team. MMOs may have between thousands and millions of players, each of whom typically pays a fee to participate, often in the form of a monthly subscription fee, by consenting (often by default) to viewing advertising material, or by agreeing to purchase items for use in the game. The games are often characterized by the creation of, and interaction with, an imaginary world or environment in which characters interact with each other and with other aspects of the environment. The imaginary world or environment may include landscapes of imaginary worlds, other creatures, weapons, tools, weather systems, forces or powers that act in the world, etc. In many gaming environments, players take on new identities (sometimes referred to as characters, avatars or personas) and use those identities or personalities as the basis for interacting with other players and the environment.

Variations on these types of games include Alternate Reality Games (ARG) and meta-games. These are games which create a world that blends online and real world experiences. For example, a detective style game might include clues found in an MMO, and clues found at a physical location. These games may be authored informally by experienced players rather than larger institutions, yet they still share many of the same characteristics.

Among other characteristics, participation in the games and virtual or simulated environments is immersive and time consuming. The popularity of the gaming and virtual community experience has resulted in a desire on the part of some players to participate in activities beyond the game or community itself. As such, a number of services and products have been developed to support this out of game/community participation, and such services or products are generically referred to as the “secondary market.”

As many people recognize the potentials of the secondary market, there have been a great effort to overcome several factors and obstacles currently preventing the secondary market from reaching its potential. However, it is complicated to enable and/or facilitate interactions between players in a cross-world environment, such as commerce, messaging, social networking, and content exchange, among other beneficial and desired interactions.

As suggested by the rapid development of a variety of ancillary products and services, the popularity of MMOs and other forms of interactive gaming has led to the creation of a market for goods and services to be used with or within games. Further, some aspects of these products and services may exist and be obtained in (or facilitated by interactions with) the “real world”, that is in the physical world outside of the gaming or virtual environment. In addition, some MMOs and on-line communities have their own economies where commerce transactions may be facilitated, e.g., goods obtained within the proprietary environment can be traded or exchanged in order to support certain activities. For example, a participant may need some particular weapon for their avatar in order to complete a task within the game or be able to move on to a more advanced level of the game. In some cases, the weapon may be purchased from a vendor or other player in the game in exchange for in-game currency. The in-game currency may come from completing a task or challenge, demonstrating a specific skill or level of achievement, or another economic activity. Note that while currency is used as an example, trades can also be an exchange of non-currency goods, such as a transfer of skills, knowledge, game earned credits, or accumulated abilities.

Generating sufficient game currency or credits to obtain certain items or skills can be a time consuming activity. In response, a market has developed which matches people who have the time or ability to obtain in-game currency with people who are prepared to expend real world currency to make up for the lack of time they can devote, and yet seek to improve their enjoyment of the game environment. Further, some services—such as help in a particular task, or information needed to accomplish a task—can be just as valuable and tradable as goods (such as weapons, powers, tools, etc.) or game credits. In general, such a market facilitates transactions in which an item, information, or other commodity of value in one environment (e.g., a proprietary gaming environment or world) is exchanged for something of value in another environment (e.g., money in the real world). This is an example of an ancillary product or service in which aspects of either the product or service, or of the process of negotiating for and fulfilling a request for the product or service, may require activities that occur in both the real world and in a gaming or other proprietary environments.

As noted, a typical example of an activity or interaction that may involve both the real world and a proprietary environment is one in which a person desires to purchase in-game currency or credits from another game participant. Such a transaction may require communication of an interest in the purchase from a real world identity through their associated in-game identity to a second in-game identity (and as a result to that identity's associated real world identity), followed by negotiations for the purchase price and delivery terms, and eventually the transfer of real world money to an account belonging to the real world person who is associated with the second in-game identity (who is in possession of the in-game currency or credits). At each stage communications may need to flow between in-game characters and between an in-game character and the real world person in control of that character. In addition, game credits may need to be transferred from one in-game character to another, and real world currency may need to be transferred from one real world person to another. However, it is desirable that both the communications and transfers be done without interrupting certain desirable aspects of the experience of the game players or user of a proprietary environment, including retaining a desired degree of anonymity by not disclosing the connection between an in-game character and the real world person associated with that character.

Further, there are certain functions, features, and activities which those participating in a gaming environment or other form of virtual environment may desire to have available as part of the gaming or other experience. These include communications (e.g., messaging), social networking, commerce transactions, interactions with other players, the ability to co-ordinate the accomplishment of certain tasks, and other beneficial activities. However, optimally and safely performing these activities often requires interacting or fulfilling obligations in both the virtual (e.g., gaming) environment and the real world, or exchanging information between them.

What is desired is a system and method to enable and facilitate interactions between players in the virtual environment and the real world, such as messaging, social networking, and content exchange, among other beneficial and desired interactions.

SUMMARY

The present invention is directed to a system, apparatus, and method for enabling communications and other forms of interaction between participants in a gaming or other form of virtual environment and the real world, or between a participant in one virtual environment and a participant in a second virtual environment (typically using a connection to the real world as an intermediary stage of the transaction). The invention enables these and other types of interactions to occur with a sufficient degree of trust between the participants to encourage such interactions, while at the same time not compromising certain desired characteristics of the gaming or other experience, such as immersion in the experience and the ability to maintain a high degree of anonymity. In particular, systems are provided to share presence information between participants, including information relating to their images and commercial activities. The presence information is user information that is used by real-time messaging systems to represent the user's current presence and identity. The presence information of a user is presented to other users to help them to decide when or if to communicate with the user.

In accordance with an aspect of the present invention, a computer implemented method is for providing a message service within a Cross World environment by utilizing an identity service system that verifies a user's identity. The method includes receiving a request to engage in a communication via the message service and obtaining an active identity of a first user, the active identity being selected to represent the first user for the communication. The method further includes generating a user presence of the first user, the user presence including the active identity of the first user and information about a Proprietary World corresponding to the active identity. After obtaining a buddy list of the first user, a user presence of each user listed on the buddy list may be presented to the first user. Likewise, the user presence of the first user is transmitted to each user on the buddy list. After an identity of a second user is selected by the first user, the communication between the first user and the second user is facilitated.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a system is for providing a message service within a Cross World environment wherein the system is communicatively connected to an identity bridge system that verifies a user's proprietary identity. The system comprises a managing component, a message agent component and a storage component. The managing component is configured to provide a list of proprietary identities associated with a first user when the first user logs onto the system, to receive from the first user an active identity selected from the list of proprietary identities associated with the first user and to generate a user presence of the first user, the user presence including the active identity. The message agent component is configured to receive from the first user a request for a message service, to receive, from the first user, content and information about at least one recipient and to generate a message including the content and the user presence of the first user. The message agent forwards the message to the at least one recipient.

In accordance with yet another aspect of the present invention, a computer implemented method is provided for managing a user presence of a user in a Cross World environment. The method includes receiving a request for a presence service, obtaining an active identity of a first user, the active identity selected to represent the first user, and generating a user presence of the first user, wherein the user presence including graphic representation of the active identity of the first user, information about a Proprietary World corresponding to the identity and verification information. The method further includes obtaining the buddy list of the first user and transmitting the user presence of the first user to each user on the buddy list. The method yet further included receiving a request to add a second user to the buddy list of the first user. If the second user has registered with the message service, an active identity of the second user is added to the buddy list of the first user. The user presence of the first user is presented to the second user, wherein the user presence of the first user is updated as a presence status of the first user changes.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a system environment that enables a Cross World commerce interaction or transaction in some embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a functional block diagram illustrating the primary functional components or structures of one form of a Cross World commerce interaction or transaction that includes use of an embodiment of an Identity Bridge system;

FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram illustrating the primary functional components of an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a functional block diagram illustrating the primary functional elements of Client for the Message service in the environment that facilitates various Cross World activities in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating an exemplary process for implementing presence services in the Cross World environment in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a flowchart illustrating an exemplary process for facilitating an exemplary Presence Service in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 7 is a flowchart illustrating a typical messaging system that enables Cross World messaging by using the Identity Bridge system in some embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION Underlying Concepts

Prior to describing the present invention and certain of its embodiments in greater detail, it is helpful to introduce one of the underlying concepts that will be discussed and which is important to understanding the context of the invention. This concept is that of a gaming environment, virtual environment, or other form of “Proprietary World” and the physical, external world, which is a form of the “Real” or “Open” world.

    • Proprietary World: a world or environment created, owned and typically operated by an entity such as a corporation, association, cooperative, institution, organization or individual. The entity is typically responsible for creating, modifying, and policing the rules, regulations and laws governing participation in that world. An example would be the virtual world or environment created for a computer game in which game players participate. Another example would be a virtual world created to mimic the real world, such as a simulated environment or society; and
    • Open (Real or Physical) World: a world where corporations, institutions, organizations and individuals participate and interact amongst each other. Such a world cannot be owned by those entities. Generally, the government of a country (e.g., as recognized by the United Nations) is responsible for creating, modifying and policing the rules, regulations, and laws that govern interactions between participants in this world. A corporation or institution may define additional rules and regulations that apply to its own internal and external interactions, but these are subordinate to the rules and regulations of the governmental entity. An example would be the “real” or physical world in which people participate in interactions with each other and with institutions such as banks, businesses, etc.

Note that one distinguishing feature of Proprietary and Open (Real) worlds is that Proprietary worlds may be turned off, or suspended, (although the managing entity may prefer to avoid such events), while an Open world cannot be turned off. Further, in an open or real world, people typically interact using their own identity (that is, unless they are pursuing an illegal or otherwise unpopular activity), which is verifiable by accessing certain governmental organizations (such as the police, social security office, etc.).

As will be discussed, the present invention relates to “worlds” or “environments” in which real people or representatives of real people (such as personas, owned or controlled characters, avatars, etc.) interact. A world may be considered to be an environment of rules and laws in which people participate either as themselves, or as an entity that represents themselves. Such worlds are generally self-contained and may operate independently of interactions with other worlds.

In some embodiments, systems, architectures, apparatus, and methods are provided for implementing services, functions, and features that enable or facilitate interactions among participants in a “Cross World” environment. The “Cross World environment,” as used herein, refers to an environment including a Real World and Proprietary Worlds. In some embodiments, the interaction will be between a first person in the Real World (who is represented by an avatar or similar construct in a virtual environment) and a second person in the real world (who is represented by a second avatar or similar construct in the same virtual environment), where the direct communications will be between the participants' avatars instead of the actual physical people represented by those avatars. Further, although the present invention will generally be described with reference to enabling interactions between participants in the same gaming or virtual environment, the interactions may be between a participant in a first gaming or virtual environment and a participant in a second gaming or virtual environment, or between a participant in a gaming or virtual environment and a second participant acting in the real or physical world (and hence represented by their own, actual identity). Note that in the case of an interaction between participants in the same or different gaming or virtual environments, some embodiments of the invention may be used as an intermediary element that couples each Proprietary environment to the Real world, and hence to each other. Note further that when acting in a gaming or virtual environment the participant will generally be represented by a fictitious persona or character (e.g., avatar) that they have created and/or become associated with.

It is noted that the communication, or interaction itself may take place wholly or partially within a gaming or virtual environment, between one or more gaming or virtual environments, or between a gaming or virtual environment and the external real world. The communication, transaction, or interaction may involve messaging (email, instant messaging, etc.), blogging, a transfer of images or video or other form of communication, a commerce transaction, a sequence of actions or tasks, an exchange of information or data, or other form of interaction. The communication or interaction may involve a transfer of information, credits, or other item of value in the Real world or Proprietary environment.

Although some of the game or virtual environment play is close to real life work in its repetitiveness and tediousness, it is pursued with enthusiasm and perceived to be fun. There are several components to the source of this enthusiasm:

    • Flow: This is the concept that people can achieve a state of concentration on a task that blocks out other thoughts and enables them to achieve a sense of mastery. Flow can be found among assembly line workers, office workers, sports players, and game players. Participants in Proprietary environment activities find the flow to be immersive and extremely rewarding;
    • Reputation: This is a measure of the recognition that a person achieves for their avatar or representation within a gaming or virtual environment, or other form of community. It may be a reflection of the achievements of that person within the game or environment, and is more valuable when other community participants, or peers, have an appreciation of what those achievements have required or represent in terms of game-playing skills, etc. As such, building a reputation is both valuable and rewarding to the participant; and
    • Rewards: The prospect of a reward for certain activities, whether challenging or not is motivating to most players, and can be managed by the operators of the gaming environment to encourage intense participation. Rewards may include in-game or in-environment currency, gifts of virtual items, the enabling of additional activities, skills, or powers, and an increase in game reputation, for example.
    • Participating in Cross World activities (either between open and Proprietary Worlds, or between different Proprietary Worlds), such as commerce transactions in the secondary market, implicates these characteristics in at least the following ways: (1) the sense of Proprietary World flow or in-world involvement is interrupted by the experience of moving to the different user experience of using browsers, finding sites, managing content, etc.; and (2) reputation or other advantageous associations obtained in the gaming or other virtual environment are not transferred to (or associated with) the secondary interactions because there is no verifiable connection between the in-world avatar and the secondary market participant acting as part of the real world.

A major issue of the Cross World commerce activities relates to participants' desire for anonymity. Participants in gaming and other forms of virtual environments generally want to keep the relationship between their real world identity and their Proprietary World identity secret. Reasons for this preference may include enhancing the immersive experience and providing security from the behaviors of other Proprietary World participants—particularly as some game or virtual environment behaviors are not appropriate open world behaviors.

As discussed above, there are presently no optimal approaches to providing the types of services and functionality desired by many gaming and virtual environment participants, subject to the described constraints and the participants' desire to retain the benefits of immersion, trust, and anonymity. In some instances, reputation may be used to enforce a good practice in commerce transactions because a person tries to maintain a good reputation in a Proprietary World. Generally, an aspect or characteristic associated with a player or Proprietary World participant deems to be valuable to that person. As such, a participant's reputation provides one way in which other participants can obtain confidence in a party with whom they may desire to conduct a transaction, and hence act to enable such transactions. In one embodiment, the transportable global reputation system and methods are utilized in various commerce transactions or interactions, and thereby facilitate and enable those transactions or interactions between participants in Proprietary and Real worlds. However, players participate in more than one game or virtual environment (sometimes in parallel, meaning two or more games at the same time, and sometimes sequentially, meaning moving from game to game as they are released onto the market), and sometimes may be represented by multiple identities in the same game. And each time the player moves to a new world or virtual environment, the valuable commodity of reputation is set back to zero or to some nominal level, representing a potentially considerable loss in a commercial sense that can only be regained over time and by expending effort.

In some embodiments, an identity management and verification, and transportable global reputation system and methods of the present invention (hereinafter, “Identity Bridge” system) may be used to solve the problem of bringing together identities and reputations gained in different worlds (be they open, real, or proprietary) in such a way as to enhance participation in secondary markets. Among other aspects, the system, architecture, processes and methods operate to enable commerce transactions among participants in the Cross World environment with tools to manage their identities and related data, verify another's claim of ownership to an identity, and verify the alleged association between certain characteristics or attributes of an identity and that identity (and hence the accomplishments or qualities of a real world person), thereby enabling a transfer of reputation between worlds or environments.

Identity Bridge or Gateway

In Proprietary Worlds, a participant (user) may use different names or the same name in different worlds. It is therefore extremely hard to determine whether that part of the transaction happening in one world is with the same user in the other world. Further, it is difficult to determine whether to transfer levels of trust or reputation between the users in different worlds unless some connection between the users is identified. One of the benefits of Proprietary Worlds may be that of anonymity. This enables the user to be someone or something very different in each world. However, the Cross World transactions generally require real identities that correspond to Proprietary World identities. This makes Cross World transactions, particularly those involving commerce, to be typically composed of two separate transactions. That is, the participants (users) will complete one transaction in an Open (Real) World and a corresponding transaction in a Proprietary World. A Cross World transaction can only be considered to have been successfully completed if both individual transactions are completed successfully. However, since both transactions happen in different worlds, it is difficult to achieve or verify this result using conventionally available approaches.

In some embodiments, a method and system are provided to enable commerce transactions, messaging, or other activities among participants in the Cross World environment while allowing the participants to use Proprietary identities. It is noted that an intermediary system, such as an Identity Bridge system, may be applied to a number of activities and types of interactions, including, but not limited to messaging (email, instant messaging, etc.), blogging, a transfer of images or video, or other form of communication, a commerce transaction, a sequence of actions or tasks, an exchange of information or data, or other form of interaction.

As discussed above, a user's reputation may provide one way in which other users can obtain confidence in a party with whom they may desire to conduct a commerce transaction, and hence act to enable such transactions in a Cross World environment. The Identity Bridge System that brings together reputations gained in different worlds is used to verify and authenticate the Proprietary World identities used in the Cross World environment. Thus, the method and system can enhance participation in the Cross World activities and interactions, for example, messaging, blogging, content exchanging, commerce activities, etc., without losing the sense of flow or immersive experience in the Proprietary Worlds.

FIG. 2 is a functional block diagram illustrating the primary functional elements or structures of one form of a Cross World interaction or transaction that includes use of an embodiment of an identity bridge or gateway 200. It is noted that the identity bridge or gateway 200 may be implemented in multiple forms, architectures, or structures, including, but not limited to, a service or web service, a client-server architecture, a computer implemented method, a network connected data storage medium coupled to a processor that executes instructions that implement the functions and processes of the invention, etc. By the way of example, the identity bridge may be implemented as part of a client-server architecture in which users communicate and exchange data with a server using a suitable communications network. The server, for example an Identity Bridge System, includes a processor executing instructions that implement the functions or services of the invention. The client may be a browser, software widget, or form of software agent that is capable of interacting with the server and providing a user U1 or other functions as may be needed or desired. As will be discussed, the identity bridge or gateway 200 is used to enable or facilitate commerce, communications, and other desirable functions or interactions between the Real World and Proprietary World or between Proprietary Worlds, while retaining desired aspects of the Proprietary World experience.

Referring to FIG. 2, element 202 represents identity data stored in or otherwise accessible from the identity bridge or gateway 200. Identity data 202 represents identity information that a user of the Identity Bridge or gateway 200 might provide as part of a registration process, where registering with the identity bridge or gateway enables the user to utilize the services and functions of the Identity Bridge or gateway. Such identity data would typically include a username and password, along with other data that may be requested as part of a registration or authentication process. By registering with the Identity Bridge or gateway, or associated service 200, a user is able to perform various functions related to managing their identities for multiple worlds and/or verifying the identity or reputation of another user (where such verification would typically occur as part of determining if a user wished to engage in an interaction with another user).

Elements 204 represent a connection (or connections) or other form of enabling data transfer between bridge 200 and the communications systems (shown as elements 114 in the figure) within the Proprietary Worlds. Elements 204 couple bridge 200 to communications systems 114, thereby enabling the identity bridge 200 to exchange data between the Real World 120 and one or more Proprietary Worlds 110, or between Proprietary Worlds. The data exchange can be part of a process of verifying the identity of a prospective participant to an interaction, of associating one identity with another, etc. In general, the identity bridge 200 and its related services and functions provide users with confidence that an identity they interact with via the bridge is being manipulated by the user who is rightfully entitled to utilize it, and if applicable, that the user associated with the identity with which they are interacting is possessed of a reputation or resume of accomplishments that can be accepted as accurate. Coupling the identity bridge 200 to the communication systems of the Proprietary World(s) enables the identity bridge 200 to connect with most Proprietary Worlds without requiring custom engineering or the development of business relationships for and between the Proprietary Worlds' managers.

The coupling may be achieved in a variety of ways. In some embodiments, participants are used to achieve the coupling. The system delivers tasks to willing participants in the open world aspect of the system who then enter the Proprietary World to perform the task with their Proprietary World identities. For example, one task conducted using the system is for a user to send a verification message crafted by the system to the requested recipient. Other types of tasks are also possible, such as verifying certain attributes or achievements of the intended identity, participating in a service, or simply conveying a message, and so on.

Element 206 represents an alternative connection between the identity bridge 200 and a Proprietary World coupled to the identity bridge 200. Connection or coupling 206 is depicted as a direct relationship between the identity bridge 200 and the management functions or entity 122 of one or more Proprietary Worlds, instead of between the identity bridge 200 and the communications system 114 of such worlds. The primary benefit of such an implementation of the connection would be simplicity and elimination of the delays associated with user interaction. However, a disadvantage of such an implementation is the need for a technical and possibly business relationship between the bridge and the Proprietary World, which is sub optimal for some or all the reasons described previously. Nevertheless, certain worlds may justify the investment cost if adequate business relationships can be established for those particular worlds.

Elements 208, 210, 212 represent a connection, coupling or other form of data transfer or exchange between the identity data (or data store) of a user of a real world commerce system 132, communications system 142, or other system 162 (here depicted as monetary exchange system 160), respectively, and the identity bridge or gateway 200. In each case or use of the indicated open world system (e.g., commerce system 130), the identity data exposed to the inventive system by a user is the identity the user has deemed most appropriate for the interaction, transaction or system involved. Typically, this is the real world identity relevant to (e.g., associated with) the Proprietary World that the transaction or part of the transaction is designed to occur within.

Note that with the identity bridge 200 used to manage data such as identities and reputation, and the resulting trust between participants that is engendered, it is now possible to engage in activities that were not possible without use of the bridge, or to have a more desirable experience when engaging in those activities. Enabled activities include: Creation of a resume or curriculum vitae capturing achievements made in a range of Proprietary Worlds in a verifiable manner; Creation of businesses that can use verified identities and reputation to deliver services; and Creation of games that demand verifiable achievements in multiple worlds.

Current activities which may be enhanced by the inventive bridge include:

    • Sale of a good in a Proprietary World in return for money in the Real World. The sales cycle is simplified and more immersive using the bridge; and
    • Participation in message boards, chatting boards, forums and blogs. Verified game identities appropriate to the subject Proprietary World can be used rather than real world identities which may have no particular connection, thus raising level of integrity and trust, and retaining the immersive experience.

Referring now to FIG. 1, a block diagram depicts an exemplary system environment 100 that facilitates and enables messaging and communication among users in the Cross World in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In the exemplary system environment, a user device 170 may be used to connect to the Proprietary Worlds 110 and/or the Real world 120 for various activities and interactions including, but not limited to, multi-user chatting, messaging (email, instant messaging, etc.), a transfer of images or video, or other form of communication, a commerce transaction, a sequence of actions or tasks, an exchange of information or data. In some embodiments, a user device 170 that is designed for supporting easy communication or commerce transactions may be used. For example, the user device may have functionality to capture images of items for trade. The user device 170 may include a desktop personal computer, workstation, laptop, etc., or a personal digital assistant (PDA), mobile phone, or any other wireless access protocol (WAP) enabled device or any other computing device capable of interfacing directly or indirectly to the Internet or other network connection. An item, as used herein, refers goods, services, skill sets, rewards, etc that are available for a particular Proprietary World. However, any sophisticated user interface may be good enough to facilitate Cross World interaction and activities.

In a particular embodiment, the exemplary system environment includes a Message service system 174 that enables a message to be delivered using Proprietary World identities. The advantages of using the message service are the confidence that the actual recipient really is the owner of the Proprietary World identity, not an imposter, while maintaining the valuable anonymity of their Open World identity. In one embodiment, the Message service system 174 may supports a Market Place service 176 which enables real time commerce transactions. The Message service system 174 will be discussed in greater detail below in connection with FIGS. 5-7.

It is noted that, additional systems, use cases, value propositions, and types of interactions are enabled and/or facilitated by the solving of these and other problems. For example, Alternative Reality Games and Meta-Games (such as Cross World games created by participants for other participants) are more readily created using a system which has solved these problems and the experience enriched by enabling use of world appropriate identities. Another example is club or guild membership, which is simplified when an identity management system for multiple worlds is available.

FIG. 3 shows the primary functional elements of the system that facilitates the above mentioned Cross World activities by using the Identity Bridge system 300. As discussed, the Identity Bridge system 300 enables participants in the Open World to connect with each other using Proprietary World identities. By registering with the Identity Bridge system 300, a user is able to perform various functions related to managing their identities for multiple worlds and/or verifying the identity or reputation of another user (where such verification would typically occur as part of determining if a user wished to engage in an interaction with another user).

In some embodiments, such verified identities are used for communication, such as messaging, chatting, blogging, and sending notifications and alerts to participants who are online, offline, or mobile while guaranteeing anonymity of Proprietary World identities. The functions, features or processes shown in FIG. 3 are examples of those that can be implemented as part of the Identity Bridge or Gateway 200 shown in FIG. 2, but are to be understood as exemplary and not required in all embodiments of the invention. One or more of the elements or processes depicted in the figure may be implemented in the form of hardware, firmware, web service, application programming interface (API) or form of software, or a combination of such forms. For example, an element may be implemented as a set of instructions that form a software routine that is executed by a processing element. The processing element may be contained in a computing device such as a server, for example, with the server communicating with a real world user via the user's client device or software and a suitable communications channel or network. The primary function, process, or service provided by each of the depicted elements will now be described.

Elements 310, 312, and 316 generally represent the Identity Bridge system 300 that may enable or facilitate Cross world activities while retaining desired aspects of the Proprietary World experience. An example of one implementation of such a feature or function that may be utilized with, or as part of, the present invention is described in additional detail in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/955,269 entitled “SYSTEM, APPARATUS AND METHOD TO FACILITATE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN REAL WORLD AND PROPRIETARY ENVIRONMENTS,” the contents of which is incorporated by reference in its entirety. Thus, the details of the Identity Bridge system 300 will not be discussed.

Element 310 represents a function, process or service that enables a user to register their real or open world identity with the Identity Bridge 200, or if already registered, to access the bridge functions and services by logging into the system. As has been discussed, and will be discussed further, the Identity Bridge or gateway enables this real world identity or identification data to be linked to or associated with one or more sets of Proprietary World identities or identification data in a manner that engenders a trusting relationship between prospective participants to an interaction, while maintaining certain desirable aspects of a participant's involvement with those Proprietary Worlds.

Element 312 (Cluster Manager) represents a function, process or service that connects a user's Real or Open World identity to one or more of their Proprietary World identities. In some embodiments of the invention, Cluster Manager 312 does not reveal the relationships externally. Among other functions, Cluster Manager 312 enables a participant in a Proprietary World to select which of one or more Proprietary World identities they desire to expose to another participant. Note that Cluster Manager 312 may cause the execution of element 316 (Identity creation & verification) in response to actions or commands by the user.

In addition to the above mentioned elements, there are various elements that are implemented as part of the Identity Bridge or gateway 200, for example, Element 334 (Reputation Manager) for representing a function, process or service that enables participants to view and assess others' reputation as Proprietary World participants without having access to information that would enable them to determine the associated Real or Open World identities, Element 360 (Communications Manager) representing a function, process or service that enables a variety of communications systems and methods to be used by a participant in a transaction or interaction, or the like.

Element 336 (Banking Services) represents a function, process or service that enables desirable banking services, including but not limited to, payment, reconciliation, currency exchange, and related services for interactions involving participants in Proprietary environments. Some examples of possible interactions enabled or facilitated by element 336, such as Advertising, Bazaar (real time trade), Subscriptions, Credit Services, Escrow Services, Auctions, Store Fronts, New Business Models represent functions, processes or services that correspond to implementations of business models partially or fully enabled by commerce services element 336. In a preferred embodiment, the Element 336 (Banking Services) may be implemented as a third party finance service provider that is an independent entity from the Identity Bridge system.

An advantageous feature of an Identity Bridge system 300 is that two views may be generated for each part of each transaction. The first view shows the participant information (such as a transaction history) using their real world identity. The second view shows the same information using Proprietary World identities. The system 300 would optimally filter access to each view such that only the owner of an identity would be able to make the connection between the Real world and Proprietary World identity. The system 300 would optimally further filter to ensure that the connection between multiple Proprietary World identities was not apparent, unless the owner chooses to reveal such connectedness. A variety of book keeping functions can also be implemented by the system using this information to deliver additional benefits to users in terms of tracking identities and the related activities of those users owning those identities.

New business models that are enabled include, but are not limited to, the creation of meta-games that might charge an entry fee, and micro-businesses in which the owner wishes to be totally known by their Proprietary World identities.

Note that in such transactions or interactions, at least one participant will typically be represented by a Proprietary World identity. In order to facilitate such transactions or interactions while retaining certain desired aspects of participation in a Proprietary World, messages or other forms of communication can be exchanged between participants (in either the Real World or a Proprietary World) without exposing a Real or Open World identity. Further, messages or other forms of communication directed to an identity in a user's cluster or group of identities can be managed, so the user can participate using whichever one or combination of their Proprietary World identities they select.

Examples of communication services or methods that may be enabled or facilitated by a communication service 360 include Chat, email and Voice communications. Note that communication service 360 will typically interface with, or be coupled to, any required Real or Open World Communications systems to enable such communications.

Element 370 (Community & Group Services) represents a function, process, or service that enables participants to engage in social networking activities. Some possible examples of such activities include forming and managing clubs or groups, writing, viewing, and managing web logs (blogs), seeing and interacting with other participants, creating, viewing, and managing their own web pages, and showing pictures, videos, or sounds of their achievements in various Proprietary Worlds.

An advantageous feature of an Identity Bridge system 300 is that all such activities may be reliably related to Proprietary World identities without reference to their open world identity.

Element 382 Meta Game Services represents a function, process, or service that enables participants to engage in structured or semi-structured activities that relate to one or more Proprietary Worlds and are created and managed by the participants in the Identity Bridge system 300. Some possible examples of such activities include authoring and managing games that include objectives to be obtained in one or more Proprietary Worlds (possibly including the real world), creating and managing businesses that deliver goods or services to participants in one or more Proprietary Worlds (including the Real world), and forming or managing clubs or associations made up of participants and their Proprietary World connections.

Element 386 (Resume Manager) represents a function, process, or service that enables participants to build a resume made of their Proprietary World identities and achievements. An advantageous feature of a resume using an Identity Bridge system 300 is that the information it contains is a composite of verified information from one or more Proprietary Worlds.

Cross World Communication Activities

A system, architecture and methods are provided to support interactions such as messaging and commerce in a Cross World environment (i.e., across and between Open and Proprietary Worlds). For the sake of discussion, it is assumed that a server/client embodiment of Identity Bridge 200 (FIG. 2) is utilized. The embodiments descried herein will be assumed to use the Identity Bridge system 300 that enables participants in the Open World to connect with each other using Proprietary World identities.

In the Cross World environment, communications may have two components. First is the determining how and when to contact the recipient, the second is actually transmitting the message or messages in whatever format is appropriate. These two components will be treated separately for clarity. As of example, three particular communication systems are considered: Email, Instant Messaging, and Multi-User Chat. It is noted that these communication systems are discussed for exemplary purposes, but not construing as limitation.

In some embodiments, a system and method is provided to enable participants to use the Identity Bridge to participate in a real world service using a Proprietary World identity. An example may be an Email Service system. Conventionally, an email system requires a gateway that strips identifying information from headers, but can also replace that information as necessary to deliver a response back to the originator. A chat or Instant Messaging (IM) system is configured to require messages to be sent through a point that can set the appropriate identity information while concealing, for example, IP address information. This includes both messages carrying the information the user wishes to send, and the messages carrying information about the user's status or presence.

While an alternative approach would be for a user to create, for example, an email account with an existing Open World email provider using the name of the identity from the Proprietary World, the result would be less beneficial because:

    • 1. There is no evidence that the owner of this new email account is also the owner of the Proprietary World identity. There is ample opportunity for fraud or misrepresentation.
    • 2. Should reputation be built in a first Proprietary World, there is no way to carry that reputation to a second Proprietary World. Not only may the rules by which names are created in the two Proprietary Worlds differ, but the preferred name form the first Proprietary World may have already been used by someone else in the second Proprietary World. The user therefore expects to create a new Open World email account with no apparent (to an outside observer) relationship to the first account.
    • 3. Given the above, when a user first enters the second Proprietary World, they arrive with no reputation. For some this may be desirous, but particularly for those whose intent is commerce, this represents a significant loss in a valuable commodity. A good commerce reputation (a good reputation for delivering goods, handling customer complaints, etc) takes time to establish. For a professional participant, there is also commercial value in reputation.
    • 4. Given the above, should a group of users move to the second world, it will be (at least) tedious to rebuild relationships between them. A number, possibly all, of the users will have new names. The group now finds each other and demonstrates to each other that they are the users who owned particular identities in the first Proprietary World. Larger or looser clubs in particular will experience difficulty completing their assembly.
      To assist in understanding how these pieces work together, the three examples described previously will be described using the new system.

Proprietary World identities may also have an array of equipment, possessions, or skills that can assist users in performing certain activities in a corresponding Proprietary World, or are simply worthy of note. For example, Reputation may be one of many possible attributes of a Proprietary World identity. This system can be extended to enable these attributes to be also carried with the Proprietary World identity. For example, the owner of the Proprietary World identity can assert to the system that the identity possesses a particular skill and the system can provide an ability to display that skill to other users. A second user of the system may use his/her Proprietary World identity to verify to the system the first identity's possession of the skill. This raises the trustworthiness of such assertions. A valuable enhancement is to enable a third user to see not only that the first user has a particular skill, but also the identity of the second user who verified the assertion.

Cross World Presence

Referring to FIG. 5, a flow chart shows how the steps taken to facilitate presence services that enable a user to select a particular identity for a “user presence” in the Cross World environment in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. A “user presence”, as used herein, refers to user information that is used by real-time messaging systems (e.g., Instant Messaging, Multi-User Chat, or the like) to represent the user's current presence and identity. The user presence may help other users to decide when or if to communicate with the user. Beginning with step 502, the user logs onto the Presence service system. If the Presence service system is part of a larger system such as a Messaging system or a Market Place system, then the log on may be performed automatically by the Presence service system using the previously obtained credentials. If the user is new to the Presence service system, then a registration process may be invoked for the user to establish his/her credentials. In step 504, the Presence service system obtains and presents a list of Proprietary World identities associated with the user. In certain embodiments, the Presence service system may include a data storage that stores the user related information such as a list of Proprietary World identities associated with the use. In step 505, from the list of Proprietary World identities, the user selects a desired identity for an Active Identity that will be used for a user's presence. Alternatively, the user can manually enter an identity. The Presence service will communicate with the Identity Bridge System to verify the entered identity. Upon successfully verification, the entered identity will be associated with the user's real and registered identity and stored in the data store of the Presence service.

In step 506, the system may collect additional information necessary to generate a user presence. For example, the user can set his/her presence status, either manually, or the system may do it automatically—frequently keyboard activity is used to measure this status. In step 508, the system generates a user presence for the user. In some embodiments, the user presence includes various types of information about the user, including, but not limited to, a graphic representation of the Active Identity (e.g., avatar, character, etc.), status (e.g., online, on the phone, away, offline), an indicator of reputation, indicator of verification, nick name for the Active Identity, name of the Proprietary world where the Active Identity is defined, other attributes associated with the active identity. In step 510, the service examines each participant (user) listed on the user's buddy list (the set of participants that have agreed to share their presence status) from a database. In step 512, the service causes each participant client to be made aware of the user presence of the user. As will be discussed in detail below, the user can add another user into the user's buddy list at anytime during the Presence service. For example, the user finds someone (a new friend) whose online presence is interesting to the user. Assuming the interest is mutual, the user and the new friend exchange information about their online identities. Conventionally, the users then bring up their open world presence system and enter the open world addresses of the other participant. In step 514, the presence information of each participant on the buddy list is presented to the user on the user device.

Referring to FIG. 6, a flowchart shows how the steps taken to facilitate exemplary Presence services by using the Identity Bridge system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. Beginning with step 602, a user logs in or registers and logs in to the Presence service system that provides “Presence” information which is user information used by real-time systems (Instant Messaging, Multi-User Chat) to help users determine when or if to send messages. The Presence service system may be implemented as part of the Identity Bridge System, or a part of a Message service system, or a stand alone service provider that uses the Identity Bridge System for verification and authentication of a Proprietary World identity of a user. In step 604, the Presence service system generates a user presence for the user as discuss above in connection with FIG. 5. That is, upon logging on, the user may select an Active Identity, representing one of his/her Proprietary world characters (identities), to be used by the Presence service system. Alternatively, the Presence service may automatically set the Active Identity for a user based on some observation of the user's activity made apparent on the user's computer—for example, a particular game being used. The Presence service generate the user presence including a graphic representation of the Active Identity (e.g., avatar, character, etc.), nick name for the Active Identity, reputation information, name of the Proprietary world where the Active Identity is defined, etc. The Presence service may enable other users to view additional information about the user. For example, if the user presence is clicked by another user, additional information about user may be presented.

In step 606, the user enters any desired Proprietary World and meets other users of interest to the user. The user presence may be used for the user's activities in the Proprietary Worlds. In step 608, the user may attempt to add the new friend's Proprietary World identity (e.g., character, avatar, etc.) into a buddy list of the user. If the character (the new friend's Proprietary World identity) does not exist in the system (step 610), the user is given the opportunity to invite the new friend to join the system as illustrated in step 612. Passing the URL of where the new friend can join the Presence service system may be one way to invite the new friend. In one embodiment, an invitation to join the system may be sent through the Proprietary World's communication system. The invitation may be automatically sent out by the system, or manually by the user or some other user.

If the character (the new friend's Proprietary World identity) does exist in the system (step 610), in step 614, the system obtains the user presence of the new friend based on the provided identity. In step 616, the new friend may be added to the user's buddy list in the system. It is important to note that the Open world identity of the user or friend has been kept hidden, and only the Proprietary identities are being exchanged during the process. The verification of a Proprietary identity of the new friend may be done through the Identity Bridge system before the Presence service adds the new friend to the buddy list. Through such verification, the user can have a much higher degree of confidence in the particular Proprietary identity that the user has inserted into the buddy list. In step 618, the presence information of the new friend on the buddy list is presented to the user by the client software. Similarly, the presence information of the user is presented to the new friend as illustrated in step 620.

In an alternative embodiment, in addition to the user presence generated based on the active identity selected by the user, the presence information for each Proprietary World identity registered by a user may be traced and transmitted to other users. In another alternative embodiment, a user may specify a particular Proprietary identity that is displayed as his/her user presence only for a subset of buddies. For example, the user can indicate to use Avatar A for communicating with some friends from the buddy list while Avatar B for another friends of the buddy list.

Cross World Messaging

Referring to FIG. 7, a flow chart 700 shows how to implement a typical Message service system that enables Cross World messaging by using the Identity Bridge system. As with FIG. 6, it is assumed that a user is registered and logged in with the Identity Bridge system or the Message service system in order to use a desired Proprietary World identity in communication. It is also assumed that the Message service system maintains a buddy list of the user. Again, the advantages of using the system are the confidence that the actual recipient is the true owner of the Proprietary World identity, not an imposter, while maintaining the valuable anonymity of real identities of the user and the recipient.

In step 702, the user selects an Active Identity that will be used for communication with other users. The Message service system may present a list of identities associated with the user and allow the user to select one from the list. The Message service system may use a user presence generated based on the active identity in order to represent the user. As discussed in detail with respect to FIGS. 5 and 6, the user presence can include various kinds of information related to the Active Identity of the user. In step 704, the Message service system receives a Proprietary World identity of a recipient for a message. Before the user selects the recipient for a message, the user can obtain the recipient's identity from either a buddy list, where the user can potentially see the availability or presence of the recipient, a directory of possible recipients, etc. A personal contacts list or a system maintained directory of addresses may be used to select the recipient. Another alternative is for the user to manually enter the address of the recipient from some other source. In step 706, the user creates the content of the message and sets any special attributes the user chooses, such as the subject of the message. In step 708, in the created message, the “From” address (address of the sender) is set to the address of the Active Identity that the user chose in step 704 and the “To” address is set to the address of the recipient's Proprietary World identity.

In step 710, the Message service system queries a real address of the recipient from the Identity Bridge system. In step 712, the Message service system forwards the message to the recipient based on the real address. The system may obtain an address of the recipient, determine a path, and deliver it to the next system along that path. The system may use information obtained by querying the Identity Bridge system to deliver the message to the recipient regardless of which identity they may have active.

In one embodiment, the Message service system may query the Identity Bridge system on outbound messages to obtain the recipient's Open World identity. On inbound messages, the Identity Bridge system may be queried to map the Open World identity on to the Proprietary World identity. The highest fidelity would be obtained if the gateway maintained a map of which Proprietary World identities communicated with each other, such that inbound messages could have their From address set to the most appropriate identity. In an alternative embodiment, a heuristic algorithm may be used such that a gateway can choose the Proprietary World identity to use for the From address.

As will be understood, the message is delivered and presented to the recipient, which may perform any type of actions on the message, including reading, discarding, and saving the message. The recipient may reply to the message, forward the message or send a new message. The Message service system may ensure that the message contains only the address of the Active Identity of the sender, and identity of the recipient that the sender chose. Otherwise unintended information will have been exposed.

User Device for Cross World Activities

A user device is provided to enable activities and interactions of many kinds including, but not limited to, auctions, bourses, upstairs markets, and bazaars. Such user device may include functionalities and resources that support a richer user experience than the browser model, while maintaining and not disrupting many of the desirable characteristics of a user's involvement with a Proprietary World. In one embodiment, the conventional Internet protocols may be used to connect the client component on the user device to the server components that are configured to manage the transactions.

In a particular embodiment, the user device may include a camera capability or a data capture capability, which provides an added advantage by making it easier for participants to capture images of items or Proprietary identities.

The user device equipped with an image capturing component enables participants to capture an image of a Proprietary World identity they have available to perform a service, an image of an item they wish to buy or sell, or an image of anything else that will help promote the item. A sophisticated U1 (or a client) may be provided for the user device so that manipulation, storage, and delivery issues are automatically resolved for the participant, and the posting of items into the system becomes straight forward to the novice user. For example, taking a picture of an item previously involved taking a capture of the whole screen, storing it, launching an image editor to clip the image to the item in question, finding a web site to store the image where it would be viewable to customers, uploading the image, generating a (usually) URL to the image, and finally placing that URL in the advertisement in such a way that the recipient would see it. The U1 may include a view frame that may be positioned and sized on the screen to capture the item desired, a single button to: 1) cause the system to capture the image in the view frame; 2) copy it to a web site; 3) generate a URL for the image; and, 4) generate an encoding such that the recipient may view the image in the advertisement.

Multi-User Chatting and Commerce Activities

In some embodiments, a Multi-User Chat (or “Chat”) messaging platform or capability are used as a Message Service platform, which is configured to enhance user participation and resolve some potential communication problems in a Market Place service. The Market Place service system utilizing the Identity Bridge or gateway generally enable the exchange of market place messages (posting of items for sale, or wanted to buy, advertising), enhance the listings of such items, connect buyers and sellers, transfer funds between buyers and sellers, obtain fees and/or commissions from buyers and sellers for services. The Market Place service system may also enable voting, evaluating reputation about buyers and sellers, viewing of reputations by and of buyers and sellers, and maintaining and an auditable trail of transactions back to Open World identities, while enabling buyers and sellers to remain behind their Proprietary World identities.

In some embodiments, the Message service system may assist the Market Place service system for supporting the above mentioned activities. In a preferred embodiment, the Message service system may use a Chat type messaging for presenting the real-time component of the Proprietary World commerce experience in the Market Place services. As will be discussed, a Chat type messaging system may solve the twin problems of 1) tracking and presenting presence information about users; and 2) conveying messages between individual users and groups of users in real time.

Using a Chat or similar messaging system to receive and transmit market place messages (e.g., items for trade) therefore provides an immediate real-time experience. It also provides a convenient mechanism for the implementers to present social communication messages between users with the market place related messages, including messages that have aspects of both. For example, a social message about an item for trade may be communicated. Such messages may include endorsements from other participants, or information generated by the system using collaborative filters and/or recommendation techniques.

Such a system is also in a position to store information about each market place message. The data may then be surveyed to find links between messages, to determine, for example, the likelihood that a participant purchasing item A will also be interested in item B. The system may then use such analysis to present advertisements and other data to particular users with an increased degree of confidence that the advertisement will be acted on or relevant to the users.

Note that the Multi-User Chat system is different from an Instant Messaging system, in that it enables or encourages multiple users to participate in a single conversation rather than the one-one conversations more typical of an Instant Messaging system. The term “conference room” is often used to describe a multi-person conversation. One implementation of the Multi-User Chat system may be to have multiple users start up a conversation with one particular user, which then rebroadcasts any message it receives to all the other users. The particular user may also be able to communicate with a single user in those cases where this is appropriate, such as notifying that a particular purchase has been transacted successfully.

Chatting Board Market Place-Bazaar

In one embodiment, an automated agent user (roBot, “bot”), an agent application of a Market Place service system, may be used to automatically invite users of the system. That is, the users of the system are registered as a buddy of the “bot” by default and the “bot” will receive messages from one user and process, broadcast, or forward the messages to the buddies (i.e., other users). Herein after, such a Market Place service system will be referred to as a “Bazaar.”

In one embodiment, the Market Place service system may support several Bazaars and enable the user to choose which Bazaar(s) to be registered in. In this embodiment, the Market Place service system may deploy a separate “bot” for each Proprietary World it has a market for. In addition, each Bazaar may be integrated into its corresponding Proprietary World such that the Bazaar can be operated as a part of the corresponding Proprietary World. The Message service system will continue to provide a platform for communication.

As will be discussed, a Chat based message system has the advantage over a browser that it is designed for changing data. Generally, the Chat based message system “pushes” a change in information to a client. This means the client is not in the position of requesting unnecessary data refreshes, or missing updates that occur too frequently. The continuous stream of data adds to the sense of excitement in the market. The use of the Chat system for the market has the additional advantage that it lends itself to the use or deployment on mobile phones. The messages used by users for chat messages may be the same as the messages used by users using the text based capabilities of their mobile phone (e.g., SMS or a similar text-based service). In some embodiments, users can communicate with other users including the automated agent user by inputting commands or free text including commands. A set of commands may be predefined in the Message service system. Examples of the commands may include:

‘add’—Add an avatar to your cluster

‘who’—list avatars in a game

‘task’—get a verification task

‘confirm’—enter a key to complete a verification

‘addstat’—add metadata about an avatar

‘join’—join a group or a chat channel

‘games’—list games registered by the system

‘servers’—list of servers (instances) of games registered to system

‘whisper’—send a message to another user/avatar

‘reply’—reply to a whisper

‘wts’—Want to sell an item

‘wtb’—Want to buy an item

‘list’—list items for trade

‘bid’—bid on an item

‘bidhalf’—bid on an item, except pay half on acceptance of offer, and half on delivery

‘bids’—list bids on an item

‘take’—accept a bit on an item

‘release’—release the second half of money on a ‘bidhalf’ transaction (the trade went well)

‘recover’—keep the second half of money on a ‘bidhalf’ transaction (the trade went poorly)

‘give’—transfer money between participants

‘history’—show a transaction record for the user

‘fees’—show fees in the system

‘drop’—drop an avatar, or task, or stat, or listed item, or bid

‘vote’—vote on some aspect of an avatar

‘refute’—refute a vote or comment on an avatar

‘fund’—add funds to your account

‘payout’—withdraw funds from your account

‘tie’—connect an avatar to a session from an external chat network

‘post’—post a message from an avatar to the avatar's/user's blog

‘help’—obtain help on use of the system

‘tutorial’—obtain a tutorial on use of the system.

In an alternative embodiment, a subscription system (e.g. Remote Subscription System (RSS)) may be used for messaging. The RSS is generally used for feeding news contents, stock prices, media content, etc. As will be appreciated, the RSS system does not lend itself to sending a message to an individual user, for example, the confirmation of a successful transaction. An RSS feed of the market data might be a useful enhancement to the system for those participants desiring just a continuous list of items being traded.

In a particular embodiment of the invention, various mechanisms may be used to present or deliver market information using chat messages. For example, a scrolling chat window is used to present all offers of items for sale or purchase to the user at the bazaars that a user is registered to receive. Separate chat windows may be associated with each bazaar. For another example, a chat window where the user may issue commands (either by typing or pressing a button) is used. In particular, filters configured by the user, or automatically generated by the system (for example, by communicating with the Identity Bridge System to determine which Proprietary Worlds are likely to be interesting to a particular user) will be used to restrict the flow of items.

By using the Identity Bridge System in the described Chat type messaging system, Proprietary World identities can be used for the presence and message services of the Chat type messaging system. The identity verification capabilities of the Identity Bridge System provides users with a high degree of confidence that their interactions are with the users they expect, even though the identities being used in the system are extracted from Proprietary Worlds. The Platform has the further advantage that the trusted identities, being obtained using a technique that is independent of Proprietary World implementations, may be obtained for any Proprietary World.

Using the Identity Bridge System, the relationships between each Proprietary World identity and its Proprietary World can be obtained. This enables messages, particularly market place and promotional messages, to be delivered to only those identities for which it makes sense, meaning those people with Proprietary World identities that can take advantage of the item being promoted. In particular, this increases the efficiency of any promotion as measured by the likelihood the promotion is delivered to someone who will take advantage of it. Without the platform it would be necessary to have users separately enter this information, if they so chose. The information that would be useful includes, but is not limited to:

the particular Proprietary World an identity is associated with;

Proprietary Worlds with which other identities in the user's cluster may be associated;

the particular instance of a Proprietary World that an identity is associated with (generally speaking, it is not possible to move items or identities between instances of Proprietary Worlds)

the team or “faction” that a particular identity is associated with

other groupings, such as guild, clan, tribe, that the user is associated with

some measure of an identity's skill

some aspect of an identity's attributes.

Conventionally, a community based message board has informally adopted a short hand for sending advertising messages of the form in predefined commands including description for items they wish to sell or buy through these channels. However, as understood, no attempt has not been made to actually execute the trade, sort thru items, manage the transaction, develop a record, or perform other necessary functions of a desirable commerce system. The Message service system described herein delivers a complete trading experience over a chat channel or similar messaging channel, from advertising through transaction completion, and including exchange of funds and generating a record of the event.

With reference to FIG. 4, a block diagram shows the primary functional elements of a client for providing Message services in a system environment that facilitates the above mentioned various Cross World activities. Each component described herein represents a function, process or service that is suitable to support the Message service system in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. As will be well appreciated, one or more of the elements or processes depicted in the figure may be implemented in the form of hardware, firmware, web service, application programming interface (API) or form of software, or a combination of such forms. For example, an element may be implemented as a set of instructions that form a software routine that is executed by a processing element. The processing element may be contained in a computing device such as a server, for example, with the server communicating with a real world user via the user's client device or software and a suitable communications channel or network. The primary function, process, or service provided by each of the depicted elements will now be described.

The Message service system 400 includes a client component, for example Client 402, that represents a function, process or service that presents client (or client U1) on the user device. Client 402 may include “Sign in” component 406 that enables the user to sign into the Message service system. In some embodiments, the sign-in is handled by a message service component, for example Message Service 418. In some other embodiments, a user signs in to the Identity Bridge System which maintains user profile and allows the user to access the Message service system 400. As described above, after a user signs in, the user can choose the desired Proprietary World identity they will be using for communication services, etc.

In a preferred embodiment, the Identity Bridge System may perform verification and authentication of a user who has registered with the Identity Bridge system for any type of Cross World activities including messaging, communication, etc. However, in some embodiments, the Message service 418 can maintain a real identity of a user and a list of Proprietary identities associated with the real identity. Message service 418 may be configured to perform authentication, user registration when a user signs in. In these embodiments, user profile information is stored in a data store, for example User and Buddy storage 434, in the Message service system 400. The user profile information may include, but is not limited to, a list of Proprietary identities, real identity, registered identity, password, a buddy list, preference, reputation, resume, history, etc.

The Identity management component, for example Identity Service 422, may enable the user to manipulate or update his/her Proprietary World identities. In this implementation, updated information may be transferred to the Message Service 418 that stores updated information in User and Buddy storage 434. The Message Service 418 also handles buddy lists of users. The Message Service 418 communicates with the Identity Service 422 to manage the Proprietary World identities being referenced by the participants. As discussed above, the Message Service 418 is able to query the Identity Service 422 to validate any Proprietary identity. In some embodiments, the Message Service 418 may apply a set of rules that ensure that certain participants only see a particular subset of a participant's full collection of Proprietary World identities.

The Message service 418 may be coupled to a commerce service provider, for example Market Place Service 426, that manages auctions, sales, bourses, and association transactions in the Cross World environment. In some embodiments, the user accesses the markets offered in the Market Place Service through the Chat Message service. An alternative implementation would be for the client to access the service directly as a web service, or any other appropriate protocol server. Multi-User Chatting may be used in the markets because it lends itself to integration with the real time user experience. The Market Place service 426 may include a data store, for example Market storage.

Client 402 may include a reputation component that provides users the opportunity to inspect and update the reputation of other users. In one embodiment, only the participants in a commercial transaction may be allowed to evaluate other participants in the commercial transaction within a certain period of the time after the transaction. Generally, the transaction history information and Participants' identity information may be stored with the Market Place service 426.

A browser component, for example Browser 404, may be optionally used to provide experience of the Market Place service 426 and Identity services. This would be helpful to the user in those circumstances when a Client implementation is not appropriate to his/her machine or the lower quality experience is necessary. For example, an Internet kiosk at an airport may be securely locked down such that only the browser can be used. The user can then still participate in the system, although his/her experience will be constrained. Another example may be when the user is operating from within a secured environment that will not allow the communications needed for the complete system experience.

Client 402 further includes an image loading component, for example Image Loader 412, to send the image to the server. This can be either automatic, or allow some U1 to enable the user to review the image before it is uploaded. Additional editing tools could also be made available, although the particular implementation allows for the user to recapture the image. The method of using the device's own window above negates the need for trimming. U1 can also be provided to enable additional commentary, to associate the image with a market place item (if this is desirable and has not already been done), or to associate the image with any other aspect of the system, such as image storage. The image is loaded either through a chat channel component (Chat Channel) to be associated with the market place item is showing, or loaded through a web service for other purposes.

Client 402 includes an item rendering component, for example Item Rendering, that enables images and descriptions of items wanted or for sale to be displayed. A standard rendering, HTML, has been used in the particular invention as it is flexible and well understood and supported by people tools to author the content. Other possible methods include but are not limited to Rich Text, SGML or even no additional rendering at all. In the implementation, Market Place service 418 manages attributes that determine what kind of promotional effects are applied to each item. The particular implementation shows items wanted or for sale using the same mechanisms as other chat or messaging interactions. Alternative methods include showing the items in separate chat windows, separate chat conference rooms, separate rendering windows altogether, or storing the items for offline viewing and manipulation through the same or separate windows and applications.

Message service 418 and Market Place service 426 may implement social networking functions, such as collaborative filters by accessing the user information such as buddy lists, transaction history information, and user's market place activity. The system may keep a record of every item purchased, sold, or advertised by every user for a certain period of time. This data can also be used to make predictions such as if user ‘A’ purchased items ‘X’ and ‘Y,’ then when user ‘B’ purchases item ‘X’ there is a raised possibility user ‘B’ will also purchase item ‘Y.’ The system may favor showing item ‘Y’ to user ‘B’ over other items, upon completion of the transaction for item ‘X.’

In some embodiments, the user obtains an image using either the client's screen capture or window capture capabilities. The device stores the image as a file on the client computer, either in memory or optionally on permanent storage. The user may be given an opportunity to name the image, or the client may generate a name automatically, depending on the implementation. The image may be transferred to the Market Place system. The user may refer to the image by its name, choose it from a list, or the system may infer the image as, for example, the most recent image. In the particular implementation the transfer is achieved as an attachment to a message being sent to the one of the automated users on the server. The standard protocols and libraries document and demonstrate this process. Subsequently, the automated user stores the image. In the particular implementation, the image is stored as a file on a web server The automated agent user also generates a unique address for the file, and records it in the database. Depending on the command, the address is associated with the user's character (for example, “Save”), or with an item for the bazaar (for example “Sell”). Other associations are possible.

In one embodiment, the URL is used for the image. For example, the U1 can supply a display of all the user's images in a list. The images can be generated by the system referencing the URLs and obtaining the images from the network. The user might decide one of the images is of an item they wish to sell. They can select the item and press the sell button. The sell command along with the URL would then be passed to the Bazaar bot for processing as any other sell command.

Community Verification and Membership Policy

In some embodiments, groups of participants in Proprietary Worlds may form associations referred to as “Guilds”, “Clans”, “Tribes”, etc. depending on the World in question. While many such associations have open membership policies—meaning anyone who asks can join—certain associations have developed high reputations for game play or some other characteristic. These associations may have constrained membership policies that require passing a series of tests, similar to the tests required to join many Open World associations. The tests may include interviews, tests of skills, resume evaluation, etc. The resume evaluation is a valuable but limited tool. Today, a resume is assembled by a participant describing the different Proprietary Worlds they have participated in, names of identities they have used, and attributes and skills achieved. Evaluating such a resume is difficult, however, as there is generally no verifiable record of the participants activities—only the word of the participant. The value of a resume is therefore greatly diminished not just as a recruiting tool, but also as a boasting tool.

Conventionally, it is extremely hard to prevent or limit impersonation of Proprietary World participants by users of other systems. A user can simply assert ownership of a Proprietary World identity, and unless the true owner of that identity discovers the assertion, there is little likelihood of the perpetrator being discovered.

It is possible, if the user still has an active subscription to a Proprietary World, for an association member who also has participated in that world to enter it and verify the user's assertions. However, it is more common for subscriptions to have lapsed, or the Proprietary World to have ceased operation. The Identity Bridge System may be used to implement a system based on Community Verification to ensure that a person asserting ownership of a Proprietary World identity really does own that identity.

Each Community may have an administrator who is in charge of managing the community. A community generally has rules and policies to regulate members and posted messages of the community. The data of the Identity Bridge System may be available as a web page so that administrators can review the list of Proprietary Worlds in which a user has participated. The administrators can see whether ownership assertions have been verified the system, and look back over the period of time the user has been a participant in the system. This will also give more sophisticated users an ability to evaluate whether a candidate could have achieved all that is asserted in the resume. A variation is for users who have built up a resume in this way to use the web page to draw attention to themselves. A link to such a page, as a signature in forums, or a blog, for example, will add much more credibility to user's commentary than a signature that does not have the verification mechanisms behind it.

The Community Verification may be used in various Services, such as Resume Services. For example, advertisements may be shown on the page showing the user's resume. In one embodiment, generation of a signature may be restricted to system users paying a subscription. Access to resumes may be licensed to other sites—Guild hosting sites, forum sites. In another embodiment, the resume may be retrieved using the Presence Service or Messaging system. The user may send a command over the chat system requesting a resume, or reputation summary, of a particular user. The Presence Service or Messaging system retrieves that information from the Identity Services and passes the result back to the user.

It is noted that any Services discussed or described in embodiments of the present invention can be implemented as a stand alone application, but could be implemented as part of an existing application as a module to be managed by a management system along with other modules, or could be integrated into the software of one or more of the Proprietary Worlds described above.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/42
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q30/02, G06Q30/0603, G06Q20/40
European ClassificationG06Q30/02, G06Q30/0603, G06Q20/40
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 20, 2008ASAssignment
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WALLACE, ANDREW;SNELLING, DAVID A.W.;CHEN, ANATOLE B.;SIGNING DATES FROM 20080425 TO 20080501;REEL/FRAME:020970/0614
Owner name: REALITYBRIDGE, INC.,WASHINGTON
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WALLACE, ANDREW;SNELLING, DAVID A.W.;CHEN, ANATOLE B.;SIGNING DATES FROM 20080425 TO 20080501;REEL/FRAME:020970/0614
Owner name: REALITYBRIDGE, INC.,WASHINGTON
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WALLACE, ANDREW;SNELLING, DAVID A.W.;CHEN, ANATOLE B.;SIGNED BETWEEN 20080425 AND 20080501;US-ASSIGNMENT DATABASE UPDATED:20100329;REEL/FRAME:20970/614