US 20100082868 A9
A portable, interactive display device is disclosed. The device presents to a user the graphical interface of a host computer. The host is separate from the display device and sits in a fixed location. The invention allows a user to carry with him the user interface capability of the host, limited only by the capabilities of a wireless communications channel to the host. The host provides processing, storage, and access to its own peripheral devices. The display device need only provide the amount of processing necessary to communicate with the host, to run the client side of the hosting software, and to provide security functions. The host provides a docking station that accommodates the display device. When in the docking station, the display device continues to operate but communicates with the host through the docking station rather than through the wireless channel. This allows for a higher quality video connection.
1. A portable display system for use with a computing device, the portable display system usable when it is in contact with a docking station of the computing device and usable when it is not in contact with the docking station, the portable display system comprising:
a display screen;
a wireless communications receiver;
a tethered communications receiver;
a display rendering module; and
a logic device for determining whether the portable display system is in contact with the docking station, for connecting output from the tethered communications receiver to the display rendering module if the portable display system is in contact with the docking station, and for connecting output from the wireless communications receiver to the display rendering module if the portable display system is not in contact with the docking station.
2. The portable display system of
3. The portable display system of
a signal strength evaluator that evaluates a strength of a communications signal received by the wireless communications receiver.
4. The portable display system of
a user warning signal triggered when the strength of the communications signal received drops below a predetermined level.
5. The portable display system of
a second signal strength evaluator that evaluates a strength of a communications signal received by the tethered communications receiver and wherein the logic device detects that the portable display system is in contact with the docking station by comparing the strengths of the received communications signals.
6. The portable display system of
a physical proximity detector and wherein the logic device detects that the portable display system is in contact with the docking station by referring to the physical proximity detector.
7. The portable display system of
a power connector that connects to the docking station of the computing device.
8. The portable display system of
a user input device; and
a wireless communications transmitter
wherein input from the user input device is transmitted to the computing device.
9. The portable display system of
10. The portable display system of
11. The portable display system of
12. The portable display system of
13. A docking station for use with a portable display system and with a computing device, the docking station comprising:
a first communications channel to the computing device; and
a second communications channel to the portable display system.
14. The docking station of
15. The docking station of
a user input device.
16. The docking station of
a logic device for detecting whether the portable display system is in contact with the docking station, and for connecting input from the user input device to the first communications connection if the portable display system is in contact with the docking station.
17. The docking station of
a third, wireless communications channel to the portable display system; and
a logic device for detecting whether the portable display system is in contact with the docking station, and for connecting input from the first communications channel to the second communications channel if the portable display system is in contact with the docking station, and for connecting input from the first communications channel to the third communications channel if the portable display system is not in contact with the docking station.
18. A method for a portable display device with at least two communications receivers to communicate with a computing device, the method comprising:
setting a first communications receiver to be a default communications receiver;
evaluating a strength of a communications signal received by the default communications receiver; and
if the evaluated strength of the received communications signal is above a predetermined level, then displaying the communications received by the default communications receiver, else displaying the communications received by a second communications receiver.
19. A computer-readable medium having instructions for performing the method of
20. A computer-readable medium having stored thereon a data structure, the data structure comprising:
a first data field containing data representing login credentials of a user;
a second data field containing data representing a host computing device; and
a third data field containing data representing a time when the user most recently logged into the host computing device.
21. The data structure of
This is a continuation of and claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/869,604 filed on Jun. 16, 2004 entitled “Methods and system for a portable, interactive display device for use with a computer” by inventors Joseph H. Matthews and Richard W. Stoakley.
The ever increasing usefulness of the personal computer (PC) leads users to an ever increasing dependence upon its capabilities. Ironically, that dependence in turn highlights some shortcomings of the traditional, “location-based,”model of computing. In that model, users come to a powerful, self-contained PC when they have computing tasks to perform. This model has long been accepted, but clearly preferable is a “user-based” model of computing, wherein computing power comes to the user whenever, and wherever, it is needed.
The proliferation of laptop computers, pocket PCs, and their ilk illustrates a first step toward user-based computing. Users carry computing power with them so that it is always available. Useful as they are, however, portable devices have not eliminated the fixed location PC. The fixed PC offers greater levels of performance than do many portables. Also, many peripheral devices are best left in one place, whether because of their weight, such as in the case of high-quality printers and scanners, or because of their connection to inherently fixed resources, such as Internet access devices that use DSL, fiber optic, CATV, or other “tethered” communications media. Even if the functionality of these peripherals could be made portable, their power drain would exacerbate an already sore point with users of portable devices. Many users are also hard pressed to justify the expense of owning both fixed and portable versions of some devices, especially as the fixed devices stand idle while the user moves about.
Microsoft's “WINDOWS TERMINAL SERVICES” (WTS) takes another step toward user-based computing, a step beyond laptops. WTS leverages the power of a fixed location PC, making it serve as host for numerous client workstations. The workstations communicate with the host, and each workstation uses the computing power, storage, and other resources of the host to present a user with the experience of running a full PC.
Thus, the host can be placed in a location best suited for connecting to its peripherals and to tethered data channels while the workstations are placed at locations more convenient to the users. The host can be always running so that when a user accesses a workstation, he is faced only with a minimal login delay rather than a full boot delay. Because the host supports multiple, simultaneous users, a family that needs another PC may purchase a relatively inexpensive workstation rather than a second full PC. Upgrade costs are reduced as they are localized to the host whose upgraded resources are then made available for use by all users via the client workstations.
However, a PC (or PC-like workstation) in every room does not satisfy a user when his desire is for computing portability, not just computing ubiquity. Portability is especially important when the user wants to use the services of the computer while he is doing something else. For example, he may read news from an Internet service while eating breakfast or may scan sports statistics while watching television. at is needed is a device that separates the parts of the PC that have some reason for staying fixed (either by inherent necessity or by economic desirability) from the parts of the PC that the user needs to access as he wanders. An ideal device would leverage the power and connectivity of the fixed PC while allowing the flexibility of movement and location of portable devices.
The above problems and shortcomings, and others, are addressed by the present invention, which can be understood by referring to the specification, drawings, and claims. The present invention is a portable, interactive display device that presents to a user the graphical user interface of a host computer. The host is separate from the display device and usually sits in a fixed location. The invention allows a user to carry with him as he roams about the full user interface capability of the host, limited only by the capabilities of a wireless communications channel to the host. Devices made according to the invention include a display screen along with any number of other user input and output peripherals such as a mouse, keyboard, pen and touch screen, speaker, camera, and the like. The host provides processing, storage, and access to its own peripheral devices.
The display device need only provide the amount of processing necessary to communicate with the host, to run the client side of the hosting software, and to provide security functions. The host provides a docking station that accommodates the display device. When in the docking station, the display device continues to operate but communicates with the host through the docking station rather than through the wireless channel. This allows for a higher quality video connection. The docking station may provide power to run the display device and to recharge its batteries.
Turning to the drawings, wherein like reference numerals refer to like elements, the invention is illustrated as being implemented in a suitable computing environment. The following description is based on embodiments of the invention and should not be taken as limiting the invention with regard to alternative embodiments that are not explicitly described herein.
In the description that follows, the invention is described with reference to acts and symbolic representations of operations that are performed by one or more computers, unless indicated otherwise. As such, it will be understood that such acts and operations, which are at times referred to as being computer-executed, include the manipulation by the processing unit of the computer of electrical signals representing data in a structured form. This manipulation transforms the data or maintains them at locations in the memory system of the computer, which reconfigures or otherwise alters the operation of the computer in a manner well understood by those skilled in the art. The data structures where data are maintained are physical locations of the memory that have particular properties defined by the format of the data. However, while the invention is being described in the foregoing context, it is not meant to be limiting as those of skill in the art will appreciate that various of the acts and operations described hereinafter may also be implemented in hardware.
The Portable, Interactive Display Device
The present invention is a portable, interactive display device that presents to a user the graphical user interface of a host computing device. An overview of the invention is presented with reference to
The host computing device 100 provides a docking station 116 that accommodates the display device 108. When in the docking station, the display device switches to tethered mode. In this mode, the display device operates as a display for the host and communicates with the host through connectors 118 on the docking station rather than through the wireless channel. This allows for a higher quality video connection. In
The host computing device 100 and portable display device 108 of
Computer-storage media include volatile and non-volatile, 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. Memory 202, removable storage 206, and non-removable storage 208 are all examples of computer-storage media. Computer-storage media include, but are not limited to, RAM, ROM, EEPROM, flash memory, other memory technology, CD-ROM, digital versatile disks (DVD), other optical storage, magnetic cassettes, magnetic tape, magnetic disk storage, other magnetic storage devices, and any other media which can be used to store the desired information and which can accessed by devices 100 and 108. The host device 100 may also contain communications channels 210 that allow the host to communicate with other devices. Communications channels 210 are examples of communications media. Communications media typically embody 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 include 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, communications media include wired media, such as wired networks and direct-wired connections (such as the wired communications channel 106 in
Functionality in Untethered Mode: Display Device and Host
When operating in untethered mode, the portable, interactive display device is supported by software that projects the user interface of the host computing device to the display device. The software also accepts user input from the display device and sends I to the host. As an example of this software,
“WINDOWS TERMINAL SERVICES” (WTS). An application program 300 running on the host 100 sends its output to the operating system 304 intending the output to be displayed in one or more windows managed by the Desktop 302. If the user of the application program is using a portable display device 108, however, the Terminal Services software component 306 intercepts the display output, reformats it, and delivers it to the Networking software component 308 for transport to the display device.
The display information is transported to the portable display device 108 by a standard protocol such as Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol 310 or the Independent Computing Architecture protocol. These protocols allocate the limited bandwidth of the wireless communications channel, an especially important consideration when a bandwidth-intensive peripheral, such as the camera 402 in
When the display information reaches the Networking component 312 on the portable display device 108, it is passed to the Terminal Services Client component 316. That component interprets the information and displays it on the display device's screen. If the display device is associated with a user input device, such as the pen 114 or the camera 402, then this procedure is reversed and the input from the device is presented to the Application Program 300 as if it were generated locally on the host 100.
The support software handles issues such as user authentication, encryption of data carried on the wireless communications channel, and application program licensing. For a discussion of licensing issues, see U.S. Pat. No. 6,189,146, “System and Method for Software Licensing,” incorporated herein by reference. Software on the display device 108 stores configuration parameters and login credentials of its users. If wireless communications are interrupted during a user session, the display device uses the cached user credentials to automatically relogin when the host again comes within range.
The host computing device 100 may run WTS in either single-user or multi-user mode. For a discussion of the issues involved in the multi-user mode, see U.S. Pat. No. 6,085,247, “Server Operating System for Supporting Multiple Client-Server Sessions and Dynamic Reconnection of Users to Previous Sessions Using Different Computers,” incorporated herein by reference. When in single-user mode, the host supports only one user session. If a user is using an untethered display device 108, then the host sends no display output to its locally attached display 400 (if any), thus darkening its screen. The host also ignores input from local peripherals such as the keyboard 102 and mouse 104. On the other hand, a host running in multi-user mode supports multiple, live, and concurrent user sessions. The user of an untethered display device is just one of potentially several users. Each display device, untethered, tethered, or locally attached as 400, operates independently to present its user with the full capabilities of a host session.
Functionality in Tethered Mode: The Docking Station
Wiring the docking station 116 directly to the host computing device 100 limits the possible distance between the host and the docking station. For those applications in which it is desirable to place the docking station at some remove from the host, the direct wired communications channel 106 is replaced with a remote connection, such as the LAN 600 illustrated in
Altering the User Interface Between Tethered-Optimal and Untethered-Optimal Mode
A user may be happy with a pen 114 whenever the portable, interactive display device 108 is untethered but may prefer the keyboard 102 and mouse 104 when they become available, that is, when the display device is in the docking station 116. The same user may be happy with a ten-point default font size when the display device is docked but may prefer a larger size when the device is untethered and subject to movement. There is no one set of interface parameters optimal for use in both the tethered and untethered environments. Because the display device moves between these two environments, it changes its interface parameters to suit its operating environment and to suit the particular peripherals in use. As an example of changing the parameters to suit the peripherals, consider that a pen is generally not as accurate a pointing device as a mouse. A movement of a couple of pixels may be unintentional. Thus, two clicks in rapid succession, the second a couple of pixels away from the first, is interpreted as a double click for a pen but not for a mouse. Also, a pen and the hand holding it obscure part of the display screen. Because of this, pop-up menus should appear above the selection and away from the user's pen-wielding hand. By managing these parameter changes itself, the display device shields their details from the host computing device. Changes in interface parameters are also shielded from the application programs by having the operating system manage the changes.
In view of the many possible embodiments to which the principles of this invention may be applied, it should be recognized that the embodiments described herein with respect to the drawing figures are meant to be illustrative only and should not be taken as limiting the scope of invention. Therefore, the invention as described herein contemplates all such embodiments as may come within the scope of the following claims and equivalents thereof.