US 20090305695 A1
A system and method for improved real-time communications in a computer system that eliminates the distinctions between various communication devices, communication channels and types of communication, including voice, text and video, is provided. When connected for communication, the user may easily move between modalities, including switching devices on which the user is communicating, switching networks, and transitioning between types of communication. A computer system includes various integrated communications-related devices, and a controller controls those devices based on user actions entered via buttons or user interface software and provides notifications to the user. The user is able to input data via any appropriate input mechanism, and receive data on any suitable output mechanism. Improved non-linear caller ID navigation is also provided.
1. In a computing environment, a method comprising:
receiving a call on one of a plurality of communications networks;
providing a notification of the call; and
coupling the call to a selected communication device independent of the communication network on which the call was received.
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/837,302, filed Aug. 10, 2007, and entitled Real-Time Communications Architecture and Methods for Use With a Personal Computer System, which is a divisional application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/429,905 filed May 5, 2003, and entitled Real-Time Communications Architecture And Methods For Use With A Personal Computer System which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. That application is related to the following copending United States patent applications, assigned to the assignee of the present invention, and hereby incorporated by reference in their entireties:
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/429,932 filed May 5, 2003, and entitled “Method and System for Auxiliary Display of Information for a Computing Device,”;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/429,904 filed May 5, 2003, and entitled “Record Button on a Computer System,”;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/429,930 filed May 5, 2003, and entitled “Method and System for Auxiliary Processing Of Information for a Computing Device,”;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/430,369 filed May 5, 2003, and entitled “System and Method for Activating a Computer System,”;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/429,903 filed May 5, 2003, and entitled “Computer System with Do Not Disturb System and Method,”;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/429,943 filed May 5, 2003, and entitled “Computer Camera System and Method for Reducing Parallax,”;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/429,933 filed May 5, 2003, and entitled “Control and Communications Panel for a Computer System,”; and
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/429,931 filed May 5, 2003, and entitled “Notification Lights, Locations and Rules for a Computer System.”.
The invention relates generally to communications and computer systems.
People communicate in many ways over many types of devices and channels, including by voice, by audio/video, and by text or the like. Voice communications include audio over landline telephones such as connected to POTS (plain old telephone service) lines or PBX (private branch exchange) lines, and cellular and satellite telephones, as well as voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Audiovisual communications include video tele-conference (VTC), which also may be Internet Protocol-based communication. Text communications include electronic mail, instant messaging, pagers with text messaging, and so forth.
Some contemporary devices provide multiple ways to communicate, e.g., pocket sized personal computers may have a cellular telephone connection to place audio calls, and a wireless internet connection for sending and receiving electronic mail messages and instant messaging communications. Some mobile devices (e.g., a Smartphone) are considered to be more like telephones, but likewise provide Internet access, and may handle text messaging generally.
While all of these technologies are fairly easy to use, from the user's perspective there is still a substantial emphasis on the communication channels and protocols, and the devices themselves, rather than on what is really important to the user, which is communicating with someone else over an available device. For example, a user who needs to talk to someone else may need to consider many factors before selecting a device and attempting to call the other person, such as whether to use a landline phone or a mobile telephone, e.g., because the call may take a long time, part of which could be spent while traveling. Other factors that a user may consider include the other device that the caller should be calling (whether to call the recipient's landline telephone or mobile telephone), the cost of the call, whether the call should be a video call, and so forth. Each of the devices in turn has its own idiosyncrasies, such as a custom user interface, a different set of stored numbers from those stored in other devices, and so forth.
What is needed is an automated architecture (system) and related methods for hiding much of the device and connection considerations from users, and replacing those considerations with a model that focuses on the user's real time communication with one or more other users. The method and system should be flexible and extensible to handle many user scenarios and usage patterns, yet straightforward for users to implement.
Briefly, the present invention provides a system and method for improved real-time communications leveraging a personal computer and/or other processing resources, in which the boundaries between various devices and communication channels are blurred, as are the boundaries between types of communication, including voice, text and video. The channel on which an incoming call is being received, as well as the device on which the call may be answered, are made significantly less important to the user than the fact that a call is coming in from another party. Outgoing calls focus on connecting to the called party, rather than any particular device.
When connected, the user may easily move between modalities, including switching devices on which the user is communicating, and transitioning between types of communication. For example, two or more users may connect with voice only communication, and then, with relatively little effort, one or more may move to voice and video. One or more users may employ instant messaging (IM) or similar text communication, such as to enhance an existing connection, or to avoid receiving a voice call but still respond in some manner.
To provide such real-time communications functionalities, a computer system includes various integrated communications-related devices, such as an attached camera, an attached telephone handset, and an attached speaker and microphone, which may function as a speakerphone. Other devices include mobile communications devices such as a cellular telephone or other mobile computing device. An auxiliary display device such as for displaying caller ID data is coupled to the computer, but may remain functional when the computer operating system is not running. Buttons related to controlling real-time communications, and indicators related to the state of real-time communications are also provided.
The present invention provides a real-time communications architecture including a controller comprising software that facilitating communications in general, switches communications to and from appropriate devices, and/or transitions communications among the various communications channels and/or types of communications. For example, the real-time communications controller couples the communication devices to voice over IP, video, POTS, PBX, cellular networks and virtually any communications medium. The devices may be wired to the computer system to which the real-time communications controller software is running, or may be wireless, e.g., Bluetooth™ based devices. The user may interact with the real-time communications controller through user interface software of one or more programs, and/or user interface software of the real-time communications controller, but in one implementation, may also do so without running user interface software. To this end, the real-time communication control buttons are easy to use and understand, and along with the indicators are positioned at locations that intuitively facilitate interaction with the real-time communications controller.
In general, the user is able to input data via any input mechanism, e.g., any microphone on any device, via any text or pointing-based user data entry mechanism such as the keyboard and/or mouse, and/or the camera. Similarly, the real-time communications controller is able to receive data and output appropriate data to the user on any of the output mechanisms when activated, such as the speaker of a speakerphone, the handset telephone, a headset, the mobile phone or similar computing device, a PBX phone and/or a network card. Video, graphical and/or text information can also be displayed on the main display and/or the auxiliary display when available.
By responding to the user's actions, mode control logic in the real-time communications controller follows various real-time communication rules and user-configured settings to handle a users communication needs, and in one implementation, can do so when the computer system is otherwise powered down. The mode control logic also appropriately responds to external events, such as incoming calls, pages, text messages, forwarded voicemail messages, and so forth. User actions may comprise lifting or replacing the attached handset, typing and pointing-and-clicking a mouse or the like into a user interface, pressing phone controls buttons, issuing voice commands, and so forth.
The real-time communications controller also follows various real-time communication rules and user-configured settings to handle incoming calls in a manner that matches a users communication needs. For example, for an incoming call, the mode control logic will display the caller ID information, sound a ring or call waiting tone on the speaker as appropriate, and respond to a user action such as selection of a device to answer the call by routing the voice, text and/or video as appropriate. Any other audio may be automatically muted until no calls remain.
The present invention allows a user to switch devices, transition between communication channels, and transition between types of calls. Thus, for example, a user can answer a cellular phone call via the headset, handset or speakerphone, add video to a call when available, switch a POTS call to a cell-phone carrier, and vice-versa.
Improved caller ID navigation is also provided, in which a user can switch among parties on hold, and also conference in multiple parties, in a non-linear manner. A user can use any active display device such as the auxiliary display to perform such operations.
Other advantages will become apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the drawings, in which:
The invention is operational with numerous other general purpose or special purpose computing system environments or configurations. Examples of well known computing systems, environments, and/or configurations that may be suitable for use with the invention include, but are not limited to: personal computers, server computers, hand-held or laptop devices, tablet devices, multiprocessor systems, microprocessor-based systems, set top boxes, programmable consumer electronics, network PCs, minicomputers, mainframe computers, distributed computing environments that include any of the above systems or devices, and the like.
The invention may be described in the general context of computer-executable instructions, such as program modules, being executed by a computer. Generally, program modules include routines, programs, objects, components, data structures, and so forth, which perform particular tasks or implement particular abstract data types. The invention may also be practiced in distributed computing environments where tasks are performed by remote processing devices that are linked through a communications network. In a distributed computing environment, program modules may be located in local and/or remote computer storage media including memory storage devices.
With reference to
The computer 110 typically includes a variety of computer-readable media. Computer-readable media can be any available media that can be accessed by the computer 110 and includes both volatile and nonvolatile media, and removable and non-removable media. By way of example, and not limitation, computer-readable media may comprise computer storage media and communication media. Computer storage media includes volatile and nonvolatile, removable and non-removable media implemented in any method or technology for storage of information such as computer-readable instructions, data structures, program modules or other data. Computer storage media includes, but is not limited to, RAM, ROM, EEPROM, flash memory or other memory technology, CD-ROM, digital versatile disks (DVD) or other optical disk storage, magnetic cassettes, magnetic tape, magnetic disk storage or other magnetic storage devices, or any other medium which can be used to store the desired information and which can accessed by the computer 110. Communication media typically embodies computer-readable instructions, data structures, program modules or other data in a modulated data signal such as a carrier wave or other transport mechanism and includes any information delivery media. The term “modulated data signal” means a signal that has one or more of its characteristics set or changed in such a manner as to encode information in the signal. By way of example, and not limitation, communication media includes wired media such as a wired network or direct-wired connection, and wireless media such as acoustic, RF, infrared and other wireless media. Combinations of the any of the above should also be included within the scope of computer-readable media.
The system memory 130 includes computer storage media in the form of volatile and/or nonvolatile memory such as read only memory (ROM) 131 and random access memory (RAM) 132. A basic input/output system 133 (BIOS), containing the basic routines that help to transfer information between elements within computer 110, such as during start-up, is typically stored in ROM 131. RAM 132 typically contains data and/or program modules that are immediately accessible to and/or presently being operated on by processing unit 120. By way of example, and not limitation,
The computer 110 may also include other removable/non-removable, volatile/nonvolatile computer storage media. By way of example only,
The drives and their associated computer storage media, discussed above and illustrated in
The computer 110 may operate in a networked environment using logical connections to one or more remote computers, such as a remote computer 180. The remote computer 180 may be a personal computer, a server, a router, a network PC, a peer device or other common network node, and typically includes many or all of the elements described above relative to the computer 110, although only a memory storage device 181 has been illustrated in
When used in a LAN networking environment, the computer 110 is connected to the LAN 171 through a network interface or adapter 170. When used in a WAN networking environment, the computer 110 typically includes a modem 172 or other means for establishing communications over the WAN 173, such as the Internet. The modem 172, which may be internal or external, may be connected to the system bus 121 via the user input interface 160 or other appropriate mechanism. In a networked environment, program modules depicted relative to the computer 110, or portions thereof, may be stored in the remote memory storage device. By way of example, and not limitation,
The present invention is generally directed towards blurring various communications modalities, such that a user communicates with one or more other users typically without having to deal with the connection channel or any particular device considerations. For example, audio, video and text communications will be initiated by the user using any suitable device that the user has available and wants to use, regardless of the channel (or channels) on which the communication ultimately occurs. Similarly, received communications can be handled by any appropriate device that the user selects. As will be understood, the various channels, devices and scenarios described herein are only examples, and there are many others to which the present invention will apply.
Also represented in
In accordance with an aspect of the present invention, as generally represented in
To handle a user's various communications needs, the real-time communications controller 300 allows a user to connect to various communication channels (e.g., a telephone company switching network, a mobile phone network, the internet or an intranet, and virtually any other local area or wide area network over which communication is possible) using the various communications-related data input/output devices. In general, the user is able to input data via any input mechanism, e.g., any microphone on any device, via any text or pointing-based user data entry mechanism 302 such as the keyboard and/or mouse, and/or the camera 202, and have that data configured as appropriate (e.g., converted from speech to text) and sent to an appropriate (one or possibly more) of the available communication channels. Similarly, the real-time communications controller 300 is able to receive data and output appropriate data to the user on any one or more of the output mechanisms, such as the speaker of a speakerphone 304 when the user has selected that device, the handset telephone 204 when lifted, a headset 306 if activated, the mobile phone or similar computing device 308 if selected, a PBX phone 310 connected to a PBX mechanism 312 and/or a network card 314. When video, graphical and/or text information is available, data can also be displayed on the main display 191 (if active), and/or the auxiliary display 220. Note that some of the devices are represented in
In accordance with an aspect of the present invention, the real-time communications controller 300 controls the communication modes for the user, thereby removing much of the user's need to deal with device and connection considerations. As generally represented in
User actions can occur and be detected in any number of ways, and the present invention contemplates essentially any way of providing user action data or intended action data to a computer system. For example, such actions can include lifting or replacing the attached handset, which correspondingly actuates a hook switch 408 that is connected to the real-time communications controller 300, and thus can be detected as state data. Phone controls 410, such as in the form of buttons on a device such as a talk button or buttons on the keyboard or monitor, (e.g., a speakerphone button, a flash button, and so on) can similarly provide user action information, as can a PBX telephone 310 or other computing device/telephone 308 (
Where appropriate, a graphical user interface component 440 shown as part of the mode control logic 400 (but possibly anywhere in the computer system, such as in another application program) may facilitate entry of the user action information. For example, the user may interact with one of the displays to select a displayed telephone number for connecting or reconnecting with a person or device at that number.
The present invention similarly outputs information to the user in any feasible manner, including via the user interface when appropriate. Essentially, anything capable of outputting something that can be sensed by a user can serve as an output mechanism, including the displays 191 and/or 220, lights and other indicators 224, the speaker 206 or other audio generating device such as a ringer on a cell phone, and other mechanisms such as one that provides tactile feedback (e.g., a vibrating cell phone). Thus, as used herein, the term “display” is only an example, and is not limited to visible information, but can include any sensed output. For example, a hook indicator in the form of an LED may be configured to flash red to indicate an incoming call, be lit green when off hook, blink amber when the call is on hold, and blink on-and-off when a call is muted. A tone and pattern can “display” the same information audibly.
In keeping with the present invention, the related hook switch 408, controls 410, 420, displays 191 and 220 and indicators 224 provide additional value that is consistent with but go beyond a user's past communications experiences. To this end, the various controls and indicators are generally placed in proximity to the functions that they control and represent. Further, the various devices such as handsets, headsets, and speakerphones are already familiar to users, and the physical interfaces for these devices are largely equivalent to conventional devices.
Moreover, the present invention allows for various levels of computing skill. In general, the various control buttons 410, 420 and the hook switch 408 that are provided allow the user to take advantage of much of the real-time communications controller's functionality without ever having to operate the graphical user interface software 440. However, to accomplish more sophisticated operations as desired, a user can also connect via the user interface 440, e.g., to automatically dial calls, answer via a mouse click, customize settings and preferences and so forth.
In general, the logic 400 receives user action data or remotely communicated data (such as an incoming call), and based on various real-time communications rules 402 and user configurable settings 404, responds in a proper manner. For example, as described below, for an incoming call, the mode control logic 400 will display the caller ID information on the auxiliary display 220, or possibly the main display 191 if so configured by the user, sound a ring or call waiting tone on the speaker 206, and wait for a user action. If the user presses a phone control button such as a speakerphone button, the call will be connected to the appropriate device, e.g., routed to the speaker 206 and microphone 208. Any other audio, such as music that the user was listening to, may be automatically muted until the call is complete, e.g., until the user again presses the speakerphone button to disconnect.
The present invention thus automatically and transparently responds in an appropriate manner to a user's needs. By way of example, consider the example above of a user who is working at the computer when a call comes in. Instead of figuring out what type of call it is, finding the device necessary to (possibly) answer it, and so on, the user merely glances at the auxiliary display, decides whether to take the call, and if so, selects any appropriate device to answer. Because the real-time communications controller 300 is the center of communication, a call to any of the user's landline telephone devices or any (smart) cellular telephone will relay the caller ID data to the real-time communications controller 300, which will display that caller ID data displayed on the same auxiliary display 220 as any other call. For the same reason, the user can answer any incoming call on the speakerphone 304, the handset 204, the headset 306, the cellular telephone or mobile computing device 308 and so on. The user need not even know whether a given call came in on a given communications channel, such as the cellular channel instead of a POTS channel or network channel, although for reasons such as cost of airtime, the user may want to know this information. Regardless of the device and the channel, the user is provided access to a universal address book, call log, and inbox.
Moreover, the present invention allows a user to transition between communication channels. Thus, for example, a user who receives a POTS telephone call can answer talk for awhile, and switch that call over to a mobile phone to continue the conversation away from the computer system. Note that this is not conventional call forwarding set up in advance for switching at the central switching office or the like, but rather on-demand transitioning during a telephone call. For example, rules 402 can be set up to favor landline over cellular for local calls since there is no airtime charge, however long distance may be favored over cellular when there is no additional charge and the user is likely to have unused airtime before the next billing cycle. Voice over IP may be the most favored, but may not be available when the computer system is powered down.
One simple way to accomplish transitioning live connections is via a different telephone line relative to the source of the call. For example, if a user is leaving his or her office, the real-time communications controller 300 can transparently (or mostly transparently) establish a cellular connection to the user's mobile telephone device on that other line and connect the other caller to that mobile telephone device through the real-time communications controller 300. Voice over IP can similarly be used.
Three-way and conference calling capabilities can also be leveraged, e.g., a user can walk into his or her office while connected to another person via a cell phone, the real-time communications controller 400 can establish another call to the other party via a POTS, PBX or voice over IP call, and when connected, terminate the cellular phone call.
In addition to switching and transitioning among devices and channels, the present invention can switch and/or transition among types of communication. For example, a user can respond to a telephone call with an instant message, either automatically or by typing/speech recognition, e.g., to notify the caller that the call was received but could not be answered at that moment. In the event that the real-time communications controller 300 has the caller ID and/or other information from that call, possibly including preset knowledge such as that the incoming telephone number belongs to a mobile device, the real-time communications controller 300 can adjust the instant message as appropriate, e.g., convert a text message to speech to leave a voice message when the call was known to be from a mobile phone that does not handle text, or when the user is known to be traveling. Note that the instant message does not have to be sent to the same device that called the user, e.g., a user can respond to a received phone call from a conventional telephone with an instant message to the caller's computer system. A simple database lookup or the like by the mode control logic can provide the recipient's address from the caller ID data so that the user does not even have to enter this information.
As another type change, when available, the present invention can start with an audio call and add video (one-way or two-way) and/or instant messaging as desired by the parties, or start with an instant message and add audio and/or video. For example, a user can press a camera button, or select video via a mouse click, to establish a video connection and start transmitting video. A video call can similarly be transitioned to a non-video (e.g., audio-only) call. In general, the present invention facilitates switching and/or transitioning between any modes of communication. Transitioning between text, voice and video states is described below with reference to
It should be noted that the computer system need not be fully operational for communications to work in accordance with the present invention. Indeed, communications should still work when the computer is powered down, at least to a default extent or to an extent configured by a user, such as when the computer system is in a sleep state or a hibernate mode, and/or when the user is locked out of the system via security mechanisms. Note that the type and extent of communications may be configured by the user. For example, the user may want the telephone handset, speakerphone and caller-ID device to work as conventional appliances when the computer system is powered down, but not the camera, headset, or network card. Further, the user may limit the extent of the communications based on the computer system state, e.g., when the user is not logged in, the real-time communications controller 300 may be set to block long distance calls, block calls to a certain prefix, and so forth.
To enable and control communications in these powered down modes, the real-time communications controller 300 may be loaded into executable non-volatile memory, operated with a secondary processor, and so forth, so that communications works as long as some power is available, even though the disk, main processor, main display, network card and/or other parts of the system are powered down.
Turning to an explanation of the operation of the present invention with particular reference to the mode control logic 400,
When connected, if the connection supports video and a video camera is present and its use is allowed, video is streamed. A user may disallow video by closing the camera's shutter, or by configuring the system to not automatically allow video, that is, only allow video if some manual user action is detected. The user can see when an incoming call supports video and can answer the call immediately in that mode, such as by pressing a camera button. Optionally, the user can set a preference so that the camera is automatically enabled whenever answering a call that supports video.
If the connection supports text or rich ink messaging, an embedded instant messenger (IM) chat control is also enabled. If an indicator serves as a “connection” light, i.e., to indicate when a communication link is established between two users, then the indicator may also indicate when an IM connection is active, such as by a different LED behavior (e.g., color and/or flash pattern) with respect to a voice-only call, to communicate to the user that an IM connection exists.
If the active receiver goes off hook or is clicked, a flash button or the like is pressed, or the user requests that the call be answered via the graphical user interface, the ringer leaves the waiting state 602 when the call is connected, after placing any current call on hold. A conference button or the like (not shown) can add the caller to an existing call. If no action is taken to connect the call, a voice mail time out will send the call to voice mail and return the ringer to the idle state with respect to further incoming calls.
In general, as represented in
If a virtual speakerphone is implemented using the microphone and speakers that are already part of the PC system, a speakerphone button may be located on the keyboard, e.g., to the left of the main keyboard keys. This button usually takes the PC speakerphone off hook and displays a dialog box for selecting the person to call. During a call, pressing the speakerphone button when the speakerphone is the active receiver will hang up the call. If the speakerphone is not the active receiver, this will have the effect of making it the active receiver, switching off the old active receiver. When the phone is ringing from an incoming call, pressing the speakerphone button will answer the call, taking the speakerphone off hook. If the phone is ringing while another phone conversation is already in progress, pressing the speaker phone button will toggle between the two calls like flashing the hook switch.
Because the talk button or speakerphone button state may not be readily apparent to a user, a hook indicator may be used in conjunction with a talk or speakerphone button, and, for example, may be located adjacent or integrated into the talk button or speakerphone button. The hook indicator may indicate state via various colors and flash patterns, e.g., steady state unlit when the receiver is on hook, steady state green when the receiver is off hook, or steady state red when no service is available. A flashing indicator, such as with a “wink” duty cycle can overlay the steady state, e.g., a red wink overlay can indicate call waiting, or an amber flash overlay can indicate a call holding. The call waiting overlay indicator will continue to blink as long as the user can pick up the phone to connect to the incoming caller, even if the call is no longer ringing. This allows call screening when callers are recording voice mail. The call holding overlay is generally only needed when a dedicated hold indicator is not present.
Although not specifically represented in
To answer a phone call, the user lifts the handset, presses a speakerphone switch, or presses a talk switch headset (or on the speakerphone). Before answering, the user has the ability to view caller ID, and possibly other pertinent contact information displayed with the notification message (on the main display or auxiliary display), allowing the user to pre-screen the call. Depending on preferences, the user can then choose to pick up the call or transfer it to voice mail, which may include transferring it to one of a plurality of custom or standard voice mail messages. While the caller is recording voice mail, the user can monitor the incoming recording and pick up the receiver, similar to a traditional answering machine.
The examples below provide additional interaction detail for common telephony functions, including an incoming call scenario, wherein the real-time communications controller sounds the ringer and blinks the talk button indicator, while using caller ID information to display contact information. When the user presses the talk button, a microphone button, camera button, or picks up the handset, or presses the hook (talk) switch on the headset, the real-time communications controller 300 may light an indicator for the active receiver. The user receives the call, and can switch among devices, e.g., to switch to the speakerphone, the user presses the talk button or mic button; to switch to the video speakerphone, the user presses the camera button; to switch to the handset, the user picks it up (activating the hook switch); or to switch to the headset, the user presses the hook (talk) switch on the headset. A cell phone or mobile computing device may be similarly used, even without actually switching the call to the cellular network (which may require some additional user action). When the user switches active receivers, the system disables the previous receiver to prevent feedback, and updates indicators to reflect the active receiver.
If the call supports video, the real-time communications controller blinks the camera indicator. If the user presses the blinking camera button, or automatic video is set by user preference to automatically stream video when video is available, the system opens the video monitor, lights the camera indicator, and starts streaming video.
To mute a component, the user can take an appropriate action. For example, to mute video and audio, the user presses the camera button, whereby the real-time communications controller blinks the audio and video indicators until the camera button is pressed again or the call is terminated. To mute video only, the user shuts the camera's privacy shutter, whereby the system un-lights the video indicators and closes the A/V monitor, but maintains the audio indicator. To mute speakerphone audio, the user presses the microphone (speakerphone) button, whereby the real-time communications controller blinks an appropriate indicator until the button is pressed again or the call is terminated. To hang up, the user presses the hook switch for the active receiver.
To place a call, the real-time communications controller 300 reacts when the user presses the talk button, picks up the handset, or presses the hook switch on headset, by displaying a dialog box for selecting the person to call. The system may also audibly ask through the active receiver, such as when voice dialing is enabled, as to who the user would like to call. The real-time communications controller uses resulting input to select a contact from the dialog box, and the user can query to search and can re-query to refine the search, if necessary.
When the user makes a selection or acknowledges a match, the real-time communications controller shows contact information for the selected recipient and shows a status dialog box while the call is connecting. When connected, the user can switch devices as described above, and also switch modes, e.g., audio to video, and so forth, with the indicators operating in the above-described manner.
The user can also perform other communications-related tasks, including checking voice mail and call screening. For example, an indicator light may blink to indicate a voice mail, whereby the user can user press a notification button causing the real-time communications controller to enter a callback routine for the highest priority notification. In case of voice mail or priority email, this may open the user's unified In Box. Call screening logic follows various rules, including showing caller ID information and contact summary data until, after a preset number of rings, the system stops the ringer and sends a voice mail message to an incoming caller. If the call screening option is enabled, the system echoes the incoming message to a system audio output device (usually the speaker). If the user presses the hook switch of any receiver, the system discards the message and switches to real-time voice, otherwise, when the user hangs up or after a certain time limit, the system stops blinking the talk button indicator and files a voice message.
In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a caller ID navigation mechanism that allows users to navigate a stack of calls in a non-linear manner. As represented in
In general, the user presses the scroll buttons 1304 and 1306 to navigate to a call, such as represented by the dashed box 1410 in
Further, if the main display is active, the user need not scroll, but can instead simply select a call to switch two via a point and click operation. Of course, the user can also scroll, such as via keyboard cursor keys to highlight, and the Enter key to select. Again, richer information may be provided, particularly since the main display 191 will provide more display area relative to the auxiliary display 220.
As represented in
As can be seen from the foregoing detailed description, there is provided a real-time communications method and system for handling the switching and transitioning between communications modalities including switching devices, switching communication channels and/or transitioning types of communications, e.g., audio, video and text. The present invention facilitates user communication by blurring the distinction between these various modalities, allowing the user to focus on the communication rather than the mechanisms for accomplishing the communication. The method and system thus provide significant advantages and benefits needed in contemporary computing and communications.
While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions, certain illustrated embodiments thereof are shown in the drawings and have been described above in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention.