US 20090064052 A1
A method of presenting an on-line product catalogue and ordering system to a user, said method comprising providing a graphical user interface representing a virtual space through which users may navigate, said virtual space including representations representing products, through which a user may obtain product information and order a product on-line, and representations representing other users of the system, through which the user may identify such other users and communicate with a selected other user regarding the products on offer.
30. A method of presenting an on-line product catalogue and ordering system to a user in a data networked computer apparatus, said method comprising providing a graphical user interface representing a virtual space through which users may navigate along a given journey path, said virtual space including product representations representing non-virtual products, through which a user may obtain product information and order the non-virtual product corresponding to the product representations on-line, wherein the non-virtual product is received by the user outside of the virtual space, said product representations being arranged as a sequence thereof interlinked by said given journey path, and user representations representing other current users of the system and positioned along the given journey path, through which the user may identify such other current users and communicate with a selected other user regarding the products on offer.
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38. A computer program for use in an on-line product catalogue and ordering system to be implemented in a data-networked computer apparatus, said program being adapted to generate a graphical user interface representing a virtual space through which users may navigate along a given journey path, said virtual space including product representations representing non-virtual products, through which a user may obtain product information and order the non-virtual product corresponding to the product representations on-line, wherein the non-virtual product is received by the user outside of the virtual space, said product representations being arranged as a sequence thereof interlinked by said given journey path and user representations representing other current users of the system and positioned along the given journey path, through which the user may identify such other current users and communicate with a selected other user regarding the products on offer.
This application is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/220,378, filed Nov. 27, 2002, which is the U.S. national stage application of International Application PCT/GB2001/000912 filed Mar. 2, 2001, which international application was published on Sep. 7, 2001 as International Publication WO 01/65346 in the English language. The international application claims priority of Great Britain Patent Application 0005083.1, filed Mar. 2, 2000.
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to an on-line product catalogue and ordering system and to presenting multimedia content to a user. The invention provides a multi-user system, and a graphical user interface representing a virtual space through which a user may navigate. In particular, but not exclusively, the invention relates to the presentation of multimedia content and on-line product ordering via the World Wide Web (“the Web”).
2. Description of the Related Art
Real places are sensed in combination with other people present. Sensations of the same place can vary from bustling to barren depending on the amount of people present. On the other hand, the Web can be an alienating and insular experience. Often, many people can be working at the same time on the Web, without the opportunity to ask each other questions, or sense that someone else is interested in the same area. Some on-line product catalogue and ordering Web sites have attempted to address this problem. For example, Amazon.com™, one such site, has instituted “purchase circles” allowing prospective purchasers to access bestseller lists grouped according to selected communities. These communities are based on a geographical location, workplace, etc.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,960,173 describes a system in which network computer users are provided with information about which other users are “task proximate” to the user, thereby facilitating spontaneous communications regarding task-related, or other issues. The information about other users is displayed in a user interface window, which presents a visual representation of each other user who is “task proximate” to the user. A drawback of the arrangement described in this patent is that information regarding the “task proximate” users is always displayed in the same manner, in a separate window, irrespective of the “task” which the user is performing, which can be disorienting. In addition, the progress of any other user within the task is not readily determined without actually communicating with that other user.
Also known are “Multi-User Virtual Environments” (MUVEs), in which on-line users may navigate through a virtual space, see other users within the same space and communicate with such other users by means of a multi-user chat application. These are intended to allow users to work on projects collaboratively, for teaching purposes, or simply for social interaction.
In accordance with one aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of presenting an on-line product catalogue and ordering system to a user, said method comprising providing a graphical user interface representing a virtual space through which users may navigate, said virtual space including representations representing products, through which a user may obtain product information and order a product on-line, and representations representing other users of the system, through which the user may identify such other users and communicate with a selected other user regarding the products on offer.
In accordance with a further aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of presenting multimedia content to a user of a multi-user system, said method comprising providing a graphical user interface representing a virtual space through which a user may navigate, said virtual space including representations of a plurality of multimedia resources and representations of one or more users, wherein said one or more user representations are represented in a relationship with a representation of a first multimedia resource in said virtual space when selecting or accessing said first resource, and represented in a relationship with a representation of a second multimedia resource in said virtual space when selecting or accessing said second resource.
Embodiments of the present invention allow a user to detect and interact with other users present within the virtual space in which the user resides, in conjunction with obtaining knowledge regarding resources being accessed or selected by such other users.
In one embodiment a user is able to roam around at least one virtual space representing a product catalogue. Residing within this space is an avatar of the user accessing the data in that location. The avatar can be a default representation or one chosen by the user. By clicking on the avatar of another user, a user will see an identity card which shows who the person is, and how to get in touch with them. A chat space is provided where the user can ask other users present in the space questions pertinent to the products on offer, or other information being accessed by both parties.
In accordance with a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of presenting on-line audio content from a multi-user system to a user, said method comprising:
receiving audio data via a data network;
representing the position of the user within a sequence of audio content on a graphical user interface; and
representing the location of other users of the system within said sequence of audio content on said graphical user interface.
In accordance with a yet further aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of transmitting on-line audio content from a multi-user system, said method comprising:
transmitting audio data from a sequence of audio content via a data network to a user; and
transmitting data indicating the location of other users of the system within said sequence of audio content to said user via said data network.
The audio data is preferably streamed to the user, whereby the position of all users of a multi-user system within individual audio tracks is readily determined on a server providing audio and multi-user data.
A preferred embodiment of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:
Each client terminal 2 includes a computer workstation having a graphical display, data input means such as a keyboard and a pointing device, e.g. a mouse, and an audio output means such as stereo loudspeakers. Each of the client terminals 2 includes a computer program in the form of an Internet browser which is enabled with an interactive media player, such as a Shockwave™ interactive media player produced by Macromedia™.
The data processing server 6 includes various interworking computer programs, including a multi-user server program, such as that provided by Macromedia™, a database program, such as an oracle database, a Web server program for storing and enabling clients to retrieve multimedia resources such as HTML pages and image files as well as an interactive multimedia program, in this embodiment a Shockwave™ movie. The server 6 also includes a streaming audio server program, such as a Real™ server for storing and transmitting streamed audio on request to a client. In addition, a customized control program resides on the server 6 and interworks with the multi-user server, for controlling multi-user aspects specific to the multi-user aspects of the interactive multimedia program downloaded to client terminals, when in use. The interactive multimedia program itself, along with the control program relying on the server 6 are object-oriented computer programs written in the object-oriented programming language Lingo™ used with the Macromedia product range.
When a user wishes to access multimedia content from the data processing server 6, using the client-resident browser, the user first requests the Shockwave movie from the Web server in the data processing server 6, and downloads same. Next, dynamic information presented to the user in the movie is downloaded from the database application, and the Shockwave movie is run with information populated from the database. The user initially starts with a default location in the movie, and can navigate through the movie by selecting different types of content which is imported from the server 6. In addition, multi-user-related content is continually updated by the streaming of control data from the multi-user server to the multimedia client terminal. Audio content is streamed from the streaming audio server to the client terminal.
In the present embodiment, the user is provided with a selection of different virtual spaces whereby to navigate through the multimedia content provided by the server 6, and to interact with different user groups.
One type of virtual space provided by the movie is in this embodiment referred to as a “odyssey”, whereby the user accesses a sequentially linked set of musical audio tracks, for example a recommended playlist. A plurality of such odysseys are accessible by the user via the movie. When experiencing an odyssey, the “current odyssey”, the user may interact with other users, at other client terminals, who are also experiencing the same odyssey. The odysseys represent a product catalogue, in that a user may navigate through the odysseys, obtain product information in the form of sample audio tracks, and graphical and textual information about products on offer. A user may also add products, in the form of music albums, to an on-line shopping basket, whilst navigating through an odyssey. When desired, the user can “check out” to order products present in their shopping basket. When the user encounters another user during an odyssey, the user may identify that other user and communicate with that user regarding the products on offer, in this case music albums.
Another type of virtual space provided by the movie is referred to in this embodiment as a “dimension”. A dimension is a virtual space in which a selection of multimedia content not related to the current odyssey is available to the user. When inhabiting a dimension, the “current dimension”, the user is able to interact with other users inhabiting the same dimension.
A user may simultaneously experience a selected odyssey and a selected dimension. The user may navigate between dimensions whilst remaining in the same odyssey. Similarly, a user may navigate between odysseys while remaining in the same dimension. In effect, a dimension is a virtual space containing representations of and links to primarily non-audio content, and an odyssey is a musical experience which occurs within a virtual space which may be shared with other users. Representations of and information relating to other users sharing a virtual space is available in the context of both a dimension and an odyssey.
The graphical user interface includes a window 10 listing all available odysseys in a selectable format. In order to select a given odyssey, the user clicks on the selected odyssey in the window 10, using cursor 9, and then selects the associated join button 12. When the user selects a given odyssey in the window 10, information regarding the odyssey is shown in odyssey descriptor window 11. The currently selected odyssey is shown in current odyssey box 13.
Window 14 provides access to all the dimensions available to the user. The dimensions are represented as a plurality of image objects 16,18,20 . . . . In order to select a given dimension, the user clicks on the appropriate image object and then selects the associated join button 22. When the user selects a given dimension in the window 14, information regarding the dimension is shown in dimension descriptor window 21. The currently selected dimension is shown in current dimension box 23.
The graphical user interface also includes a user list window 24, providing a selectable list of a subset of the other users currently logged on to the server 6. The user list is restricted by the selection of odyssey and/or dimension chosen by the user. Namely, only users experiencing the same odyssey and/or users present in the same dimension as the user appear in user list window 24.
Textual chat messages generated by other users listed in user list window 24 appear in chat box 26, whilst textual chat messages may be generated by the user in entry box 28, and posted to all other users in the user list. If the user wishes to hold a private chat with any of the users listed in user list window 24, the user may select the appropriate user from the user list and invite them to a private chat. In such a case, the co-participants in the private chat appear in private list window 30, and chat boxes 26 and 28 are used to display and post messages solely amongst the private user list.
A buddy window 25 indicates to the user when other users whom the user has previously registered a special interest in are currently logged on to the server 6. Different buddies are indicated conveniently by a box having unique position and/or colour within buddy list window 25. The user may invite a buddy to a private chat by clicking on the appropriate box when present in window 25.
Referring now to virtual space window 8, in the type of virtual space illustrated in
Once a user joins an odyssey, the virtual space type illustrated in
Other users of the system currently experiencing the same odyssey as the user are also represented in virtual space window 8 by means of an avatar 42,43 . . . . Thus, each user on the same odyssey is represented by a different avatar. Each user has a default avatar, such as that illustrated in
The user may obtain additional details regarding the track currently being played to the user by clicking on the closest planet image 32, or regarding other tracks further on in the odyssey sequence by clicking on other planet images in the virtual space window 8. On such selection, the user is displayed a track card 50 as shown in
The user may navigate through the odyssey by means of audio control buttons 59, including a play button, a pause button, a stop button and a fast forward button. Selection of one of the audio control options not only controls the audio output from the user's terminal, but also controls the navigation of the user's avatar 40 within the odyssey displayed in virtual space window 8.
Not all planet images within the current odyssey are represented concurrently in virtual space window 8 in the type of virtual space illustrated in
As shown in
The current temporal location of the user within the odyssey, in terms of the audio tracks, is also illustrated in this type of virtual space, by means of an avatar 140 representing the user appropriately located along the journey path 138.
By clicking on dimension button 64, the user may also select a further different type of virtual space, representing the dimension in which the user currently exists, as shown in
The dimension virtual space includes a plurality of image objects representing resources permanently available within the dimension, including text and image files. The user may access data by double clicking on an appropriate image object 200, 202 . . . , whereby the associated Web resources, such as HTML pages and/or image files, are accessed and displayed in the graphical user interface. Upon access to the resources associated with an image object, the user's avatar is represented as adjacent the image object in question on the graphical user interfaces of other users of the system. The user may also select an image object, and thereby display an interest in the subject-matter of the resources associated with the image object, without currently accessing the resources, by single-clicking on the image object in which case the user's avatar 240 is represented as adjacent the selected image object, both on the user's graphical user interface (as shown in
It is to be appreciated that selection of the type of virtual space in virtual space window 8 only affects the graphical user interface displayed to the user, and does not affect playback of the audio bitstream for the odysseys. The audio playback is controlled by means of audio playback control buttons 58 in each type of virtual space.
It is also to be appreciated that various modifications and variations may be employed in relation to the above-described embodiment. For example, whilst in the above embodiment the multi-user control on the graphical user interface is implemented by a customized program (the Shockwave™ movie) resident on the client side interworking with a customized control program on the server side during access to the multimedia content, in an alternative embodiment the multi-user control on the graphical user interface may be implemented solely by a multi-user control program resident on the server side, and updated on the client side by data sent to the user in standard browser-readable format.
Whilst in the above-described embodiment the product catalogue is a music catalogue and the virtual space is represented as virtual outer space, various alternatives are also envisaged. For example, the product catalogue may be a wine catalogue and the virtual space generated by the Shockwave movie may be in the form of a virtual vineyard, in which users navigate through and select individual grape vines in order to access and order specific wine products on offer, whilst interacting with other users in the same manner as described above. The audio streaming aspects of the invention may, or may not be implemented. Where the products on offer are not audio-related, the provision of audio content may not be desired.