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back to article Smack your phones up, says Microsoft

Microsoft has filed for a patent on a new technique that allow users of mobile devices to silence them by delivering a firm whack. Patent application 20120231838, aka CONTROLLING AUDIO OF A DEVICE, aims to patent: “A method comprising: in a mobile communications device: receiving information indicative of acceleration of the …

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New Patent

I'm going to patent throwing the phone across the room to turn the alarm clock off

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Anonymous Coward

Re: New Patent

Prior art - hitting it (done that), throwing it (done that), shouting at it. (done that but this patent doesn't address that and not eve iApple could credibly claim that, no matter how rapacious and morninc their lawyers may be)

Only a truly moronic patent office employee would grant this: if it's granted, thankyou sir/madam for claiming the title and having the courage to put your name to it:: if no name put to it, thankyou for suggesting enite USPTO staff may be morons and some are therefore cowardly morons..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: New Patent

Had an alarm clock that did that.

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Meh

Re: New Patent

Can you imagine the insurance claims,

'whacked phone as indicated in the instruction manual, dislodge sim, broke screen'

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Re: New Patent

There was a lad years ago who hacked his Macbook so that he could use its HDD's G-sensors for interacting with it. In his case he mapped it so that whacking the left hand side of his monitor was 'Browser: Back' and the right hand side was 'Brower: forward'.

Still, I think MS deserves some credit, since its software has inspired many users to hit their computers over the years.

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Devil

Re: New Patent

> throwing the phone across the room to turn the alarm clock off

Some MIT lab had an alarm clock that you could throw across the room to make it stop pestering you IIRC

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Android apps already exist to use the accelerometer to silence the phone. And I bet they exist on other platforms too. So how is this non-obvious and inventive?

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Mushroom

If its public now then Microsoft filed it a long time ago....

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Inventive step.

The inventive step here is only switching on the accelerometer when the sound starts. I know. It's... mindblowing. How did they think of that?!?

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Mushroom

There...fixed it for you.

If its public now then Apple filed it a long time ago....

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Can we shack the patent office

to make them shut up?

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Re: Can we shack the patent office

You want to shack up with the patent office?

Be warned. Apple hog the blankets.

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This patent is just whacking off

(see title)

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Anonymous Coward

Microsoft patent?

More like a Nokia patent which Stephen Elop the Microsoft stooge had stolen.

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Re: Microsoft patent?

Jawbone already has a patent on this, as well. Some of their Bluetooth headsets have accelerometers on them, and you can tap the side of the headset to answer a call, hang up, or switch to another call. Difficult to see how Microsoft got this patent when the existing Jawbone patent is so clearly and directly on point.

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Re: Microsoft patent?

"Jawbone already has a patent on this, as well. Some of their Bluetooth headsets have accelerometers on them, and you can tap the side of the headset to answer a call, hang up, or switch to another call. Difficult to see how Microsoft got this patent "

The patent talks about using the whack as input to avoid having to use the user interface.

As a BT headset doesn't have a user interface then this could be still counted as something new.

Not saying I agree with that, but I also don't agree with patenting rounded corners, and that didn't stop the patent office approving that one...

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Natural Extension

As a BT headset doesn't have a user interface then this could be still counted as something new.

Agreed, but I think it's plausible to suggest the presence of the UI element is just a natural extension of the Jawbone patent and, therefore, there is very little that's 'innovative' to warrant a 20-year right to exclusive exploitation.

This is just another example of the brain damage that is the US patent system.

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That's actually pretty clever.

Can someone throw together an android app that does this, in flagrant disregard of patent law? I like this idea.

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Re: That's actually pretty clever.

Too late, they already existed long before this patent was filed.

I also seem to recall at least one manufacturer (HTC?) advertising this as a feature of some of their phones a couple of years ago, and InvenSense describe this kind of function in several of their accelerometer data sheets.

You can also tell that the patent applicant doesn't really understand the basic hardware either, because the "shock" and "freefall" outputs of many MEMS accelerometers are still active in 'sleep' mode, when they are drawing uA.

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Nya

Re: That's actually pretty clever.

The HTC one is not this, it's shutting the phone up by turning it over...same output, but a different method of doing it.

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Re: That's actually pretty clever.

Nokia's also got flip the phone over to silence calls and alarms. I don't see how this can be patented unless they really want to differentiate a smack from flipping, all they're detecting is a change in acceleration/orientation.

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Re: HTC phones silencing the ring

Irritatingly it also silences the ring by default if you leave it lying face down - it took missing an important call to find this out.

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Re: That's actually pretty clever.

My Galaxy S3 does something very similar. You cover the screen with your palm to mute it

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Re: That's actually pretty clever.

Nokia 6600 Fold did tap to silence incomming call too.Only turning on the accelerometer when needed is a nice touch, but I'd be more interested to know if they've solved the problem of the vibrate alert triggering the accelerometer and cancelling some incomming calls automatically (I ended up turning off vibrate since it was too weak to notice anyway).

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Re: That's actually pretty clever.

>if they've solved the problem of the vibrate alert triggering the accelerometer and cancelling some incomming calls automatically

Not difficult in principal, the vibration is reciprocal movement back and forth, the whack would be a greater distance and with greater acceleration. Just a matter of calibration.

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Vic
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Re: That's actually pretty clever.

> The HTC one is not this

It is on the Desire.

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Could use it on my phone

given the thing doesn't have a physical pause/mute button for the ipod part.

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All this patenting UI is crazy, and no good for users. We WANT different phones to be used in the same way. Can you imagine if Gottlieb Daimler had patented the steering wheel, so that other cars used rudders (it was done), joysticks and leaning to turn a car, And then if there was no standard for which pedals did what (the model T was very different), or if there was a patent on winding down windows.

It would be a nightmare moving from car to car - it's bad enough getting the wipers when you want the indicators - but the mobe world is enshrining this difficulty for users in law.

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Once again, they WERE patented

but after a maximum of 25 years the patent lapses and the public gets to use them for free.

When there's a need for a standard, for example for the purposes of interoperability, then manufacturers come together and commit the required patents as FRAND. Other than that the whole point of patents is to give a company a temporary technical advantage in the market OR licensing income as they choose.

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@Steve Todd

Well done for getting down voted for actually being correct.

Still this days the comments are so dull

Patents = Bad

Copyright = Bad

Micro$haft (or other variants) = Bad

Apple are either evil or the best thing ever

Android is either evil or the best thing ever

Linux = The best thing ever, suited for every job and is completely immune to any sort of attack.

Any idea what Tech websites these days have a level of intellect about them?

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Re: Once again, they WERE patented

Oh yes Steve, they were patented. And represented actual physical methods, concerning real innovation, for operating and directing a rather volatile and temperamental mode of transportation, and including a whole working mechanism.

Which is a bit different from a silly drawing and some fluff, considering that back in the day and age of old-fashioned DIY electronics where there were *tons* of homebuild projects involving controlling/activating devices using any form of interaction known to man.

Because it was fun and we could.

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Stop

You're assuming that el Reg's description of the patent is at all accurate

And complete. As usual it isn't. The patent claims a method for detecting one or more whacks of a device when the audio output is busy. Depending on the number and strength of whacks an event message is sent to the active app which may act on it. That means that the audio player can respond in one way, the phone app in another etc. There's also the potential for a different response depending on the axis you hit it on (top, side or front).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You're assuming that el Reg's description of the patent is at all accurate

None of that is innovative......

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Re: You're assuming that el Reg's description of the patent is at all accurate

Fine, cite examples. If you can show other companies already using the same method then you've got prior art. If not then pipe down.

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Re: You're assuming that el Reg's description of the patent is at all accurate

Prior art would consist of the Firby (released pre 2000?). If you hit it, it shut up (I did so many times). Plugging a mobile phone onto it is not innovative.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You're assuming that el Reg's description of the patent is at all accurate

Patents cannot be "obvious" .. they have to be "novel" Tapping/slapping your phone to shut it up or make it do certain things is not novel

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Re: You're assuming that el Reg's description of the patent is at all accurate

Wrong, the METHOD cannot be obvious. The task that you are performing may be.

For example you can patent a machine to peal and core Apples. It's obvious that you would want to, but the method is novel. This patent is not just "hit the device, it stops playing", its decide how hard, how many times and where the device is being hit, send a message to the active app telling it what has happened.

The result is that you can do things like light slap = reject call, heavier slap = switch off cell radio. Hitting it to make it stop is obvious, determining more nuance and reacting accordingly isn't.

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Anonymous Coward

That's why we have FRAND patents, standards for certain essential things.

Nobody can claim being able to tap a phone to silence it is essential.

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Re: You're assuming that el Reg's description of the patent is at all accurate

Having gone through the trouble to read through the whole thing, it still comes down to using a double-whack to shutting a mobile up, using the accelerometers, with enough leeway/"prerecording" to prevent accidental (de)activation.

Steve is right in the fact that the *exact* method (including the necessary electronics and algorythm/programming) is patentable, since this would be a new "fixed" feature in a "mobile device". However, there are a number of ways in which you could accomplish this in existing "mobile devices" with accelometers if you'd feed the data in an appropriately programmed app.

The problem with this patent is that it is , as usual in the US, so broadly stated that it could be used to whack anyone over the head with a very expensive courtcase if a feature looks remotely like the one described here, *even if the implementation of the idea is different than the one in the patent* .

Accelerometers are an integral part of many mobile devices, and [user interaction] --> [detection] --> [function] is an important part of the way they work. The question is to which extent translation from input from standard, built-in hardware into a behaviour through software is actually patentable. I have no doubt that some android whizzes could hack something up doing exactly this in a day or two without even breaking a sweat. For proprietary OS it would depend on whether the acceleration data would be available to work with, but it isn't that hard to do as well. It's nothing more than "(if within [timeframe] (if input (A + B + [n]) > [threshold value])) >[x]) --> [use specific call to tell OS to kill sound] " , translated to your favourite flavour.

Sorry Steve, but unless Microsoft gets a thing like this actually baked in the hardware of their mobile devices, it's so obvious you could use it as an assignment in any advanced highschool programming course, which sort of debunks the prerequisites for a *real* patent.

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Coat

Is it April 1 already?

el reg editor's to-do list:

1) Firmly grasp readers' collective leg

2) Pull really really really hard

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Re: Is it April 1 already?

I think this is a Microsoft attempt at humor, and a stab at the fruity company patent section most people go "WTF?!!!" about.

Like any form of Office Humor, it doesn't really have to be funny, or make sense in the Real World.

Then again.. You're talking about US patent mania...

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Voice and manual control

This sounds like the Hoskins-Regan phone

'Oi, you shut it or you're in for a slap!'

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Game idea

Once this game is developed, it will increase the sales of mobile phones tenfold[1].

How it works is this. You lay nine mobile phones out in a three by three grid, and you need a tenth phone as a controller. You launch the software on the tenth phone, and register the other nine with it. Then the tenth phone randomly rings the other nine phones, and the player's task is to silence them by whacking them as quickly as possible - the faster each phone is whacked/silenced, the higher the score.

And since people will need ten phones in order to play this exciting, innovative and totally original[2] game, they will buy ten phones instead of one[3]. It can't possibly fail[4].

We can call it Whack-a-mobe, which doesn't have a familiar sounding ring to it at all.

[1] No it won't.

[2] No it isn't.

[3] No they won't.

[4] Yes it can and probably will.

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Anonymous Coward

Silence a Windows phone with a firm whack?

I usually throw a chair at it

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Re: Silence a Windows phone with a firm whack?

Sadly, this doesn't work with corporations.

Probably. (Maybe someone should try it?)

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Star Trek styleeee

I normally keep my 'phone in my top shirt pocket, so what I really want is a function that activates the voice dialling feature when I tap my pocket (in the style of a star trek communicator). If it hasn't been patented oalready then I call dibs on it (that's how it works, right ?).

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Paris Hilton

So if one is, ahem, "whacking off"

Will one find the young lady's moans inadvertently silenced at a crucial moment?

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Anonymous Coward

Crustacean?

What's the name of that little sea-faring animal that cracks open shells with a punch? I call dibs on patenting the name of this MS-whacky idea after that little bugger.

PS: I even heard that this one can't be put in any glass aquarium, because it's punch is strong and fast enough to crack the glass.

PS2: We fix things with a firm thwack too; it is called "percussive maintenance".

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Re: Crustacean?

Mantis Shrimp

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IT Angle

Re: Mantis Shrimp

Yes they can crack tanks, some Mantis Shrimp can "punch" with the equivalent force of a .22 caliber pistol round.

I can remember tales of a sudden spate of unexplained tank failures when I managed an aquatics shop around 20yr ago. They were later attributed to a batch of imported "living rock" that contained baby Mantis Shrimp which grew in to angry adults!

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