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United States Patent [w]
Tang et al.
US005960173A [ii] Patent Number: 5,960,173  Date of Patent: Sep. 28,1999
 SYSTEM AND METHOD ENABLING
AWARENESS OF OTHERS WORKING ON
SIMILAR TASKS IN A COMPUTER WORK
 Inventors: John Tang, Palo Alto; Ellen Isaacs,
Sunnyvale; Trevor Morris, Mountain
View; Thomas Rodriguez, San
Francisco; Alan Ruberg, Foster City;
Rick Levenson, Mountain View, all of
 Assignee: Sun Microsystems, Inc., Mountain View, Calif.
 Appl. No.: 08/577,728  Filed: Dec. 22, 1995
 Int. C I. G06N 1/413
 U.S. CI 395/200.31; 395/200.35;
 Field of Search 395/200.01, 200.03,
395/200.04, 200.12, 200.02, 680, 682, 683, 200.3, 200.31, 200.34, 200.35, 200.36, 200.37, 200.43, 200.57, 330, 331, 332; 340/825.49; 348/15; 345/329, 330, 331,
 References Cited
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Primary Examiner—-Thomas Peeso
Attorney, Agent, or Firm—Fenwick & West LLP
A computer system and method provide networked computer users 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 on each computer that presents a visual representation of each user who is task proximate to the user operating the computer. Task proximity to other users may change as the user context switches between applications, and the user interface window is updated accordingly. Task proximity is determined individually by different applications. One exemplary system architecture for providing the information includes a person object representing each user, and storing the visual representation of the user. An encounter window on each computer displays the visual representations. A number of encounter-aware applications may execute on each computer. An encounter server on each computer provides communication between the encounteraware applications of the positions of each user, position being determined, for example, by the function the user is using, the data, and the time.
52 Claims, 8 Drawing Sheets