My Brother Hits the Big 10K (Patent, that is)

I got an email from my broth­er, that a patent that he was one of the four researchers work­ing on (and now, award­ed) turned out to be the 10,000th patent by his com­pa­ny, Microsoft.

I had visions of stream­ers, par­ty hats and the like, but his boss at the time, one of the oth­er peo­ple on the team, end­ed up get­ting most of the atten­tion. I guess that’s how the media cov­ers things. There was some CNET cov­er­age which only referred to my broth­er as a ‘col­league’ (Boo, Hiss!) and this press release from Microsoft itself which men­tions him in a cap­sule area, but only because he was also the co-recip­i­ent (with the same boss again) of the 5,000th patent. (How crazy a coin­ci­dence is that?)

This patent (10,000) was for a User Inter­face idea for Microsoft­’s ‘Sur­face’ com­put­er, which I’ve actu­al­ly writ­ten about in my oth­er blog. Accord­ing to the Microsoft press release, the patent:

…applies to sur­face com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy and out­lines how users can place real objects — any­thing from cell phones to their own fin­gers — on the com­put­er’s table­like dis­play and the com­put­er will auto­mat­i­cal­ly iden­ti­fy the objects and track their posi­tion, ori­en­ta­tion and motion. This allows the objects to be asso­ci­at­ed with data or media, like a spe­cif­ic col­lec­tion of music or photos.

The real­ly big coin­ci­dence is that this past week, at the Inter­ac­tion Design Asso­ci­a­tion’s IXD09 Con­fer­ence that I attend­ed this past week in here in Van­cou­ver, there was indeed a Sur­face Com­put­er from Microsoft (along with the Project Man­ag­er for that prod­uct, Joe Fletch­er), and we placed our badges on the com­put­er, which rec­og­nized us by our 3D Bar­code or QR Code on the back of the badge (which I’ve scanned here):

Here's the badge, with a 3D barcode

Here’s the back of the badge, with a 3D bar­code, These codes are pret­ty com­mon in Japan where cell phone users use them to direct them to web pages on their phones.

When the badge was ‘rec­og­nized’ by the Sur­face, we could con­nect to anoth­er user who placed their badge on the com­put­er by drag­ging from one badge to the oth­er with our fin­gers, prompt­ing the com­put­er to send an ‘I want to con­nect to you’ mes­sage on the IXD09 web site. Kind of sil­ly, when you think of it, since you were usu­al­ly right in front of the per­son you sup­pos­ed­ly want­ed to con­nect with, but it was a fun demo, all the same. The strange sen­sa­tion of see­ing my badge sprout extra graph­ics under it when placed on the glass cof­fee table com­put­er was like a real world ver­sion of Who Framed Roger Rab­bit, with car­toon or 2D ele­ments seem­ing to exist seam­less­ly and inter­act with the real things around them. Now, know­ing that it was my broth­er’s patent that was behind this piece of tech­no-mag­ic makes it even cooler.

So, I hope he at least gets a T‑Shirt or some­thing ( Maybe it could say, “I Got Microsoft its 5,000 and 10,000th Patents and All I Got Was This T‑Shirt”). Maybe his own Sur­face Computer?  C’mon Microsoft, the guy(s) who hit the 5 and 10K mark for you in the Intel­lec­tu­al Prop­er­ty race deserve more than a press release!

Update: Hap­py to see that ZDNet did a bet­ter job rec­og­niz­ing his contribution!

4 Replies to “My Brother Hits the Big 10K (Patent, that is)”

  1. Hi David. My com­pa­ny, man­i­fest, and specif­i­cal­ly myself and our tal­ent­ed devel­op­ment team, cre­at­ed the Sur­face Table appli­ca­tion you men­tion for the inter­ac­tion 09 con­fer­ence. We pur­chased the table last fall and this was the first appli­ca­tion we built. It was def­i­nite­ly a learn­ing expe­ri­ence through­out, espe­cial­ly get­ting the Iden­ti­ty Tags to work. Very cool that your broth­er was respon­si­ble for this tech­nol­o­gy. I’m glad you enjoyed inter­act­ing with it. Btw, I love the anal­o­gy of Roger Rab­bit. Thanks for the mention!

  2. Thanks for the com­ment, Jason! For­got to men­tion that the Sur­face Table was from Man­i­fest. I remem­ber meet­ing you when I had my Roger Rab­bit moment with it… 🙂

    Hope you had a good time at the con­fer­ence. Look­ing for­ward to see­ing you and your team’s work in more places and occasions.

  3. Bear in mind that he did­n’t invent the whole thing. Just the bit that objects placed on it can inter­act with it and link to oth­er objects. Like leav­ing your iPod (oh right, it’s Microsoft, so it would be a Zune) and when the table rec­og­nized it, the list of tracks on it would get pro­ject­ed next to it. You could then either tap on a track to play it on your home stereo, or drag the track to anoth­er device, or tap on an x next to the track to delete it, etc. Any­way, he can’t claim to have invent­ed the Sur­face, but just one of the cool­er inter­ac­tions that it can support.

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