IBM Seeks Patent on Software that Incorporates Human Emotion

When it comes to patent holdings from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) of Armonk, NY, is far and away the major player in this field. During 2012, IBM received a record 6,478 patents, eclipsing the combined totals of Symantec, Oracle/SUN, Amazon, Apple, HP, EMC and Accenture. For more than 20 years, IBM has been the top recipient of American patents, allowing it to flex some serious muscles in intellectual property law. For example, the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission just released documents that show IBM received $36 million from Twitter for selling the latter 900 patents in January. First announced in January, this deal was struck to avoid an IBM lawsuit for patent violations on behalf of Twitter. Recent comments from the company’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, indicates that the company will continue its shift towards cloud-based services and data analytics.

Whenever we return to cover IBM for the Companies We Profile series here at IPWatchdog, we realize that there’s no way to adequately report every innovation coming from that technological giant. Today, we’ve gone through and snagged some of the most interesting patent applications and issued patents published by the USPTO from just the past two weeks. What we’re noticing are a number of novel inventions designed to improve the computing experience at a very personal level for many, so we spend some time focusing on those inventions in particular.

We begin today’s analysis with a look at our featured patent application, which features a system for digitizing human physiological inputs in order to determine emotion. This computer analysis program could detect negative and positive behavioral evidence through facial expressions and voice inputs to determine a more exact emotional state for a user. We also profile some patent applications discussing better means of providing online content and communication services to users.

Not every patent application filed by IBM reaches patented status, but the company files so many applications that it’s bound to enjoy a multitude of issued patents every week. Since March started, IBM has been awarded a number of interesting patents that caught our eyes here at IPWatchdog. Patents we discuss include a system for canceling sent e-mails, even after they’ve been opened, as well as methods for creating software programs through the World Wide Telecom Web. We also noticed a patent protecting a system that may be integral to a growing field: the interconnected web of home devices, also known as the “Internet of Things.”



Multiple Sensory Channel Approach for Translating Human Emotions in a Computing Environment
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140068472

The complexity of cloud server applications and software packages allows humans to interact with computer interfaces in ever more fulfilling ways. Many of these products enable online communication with other individuals through a variety of games and life simulators. For example, the online world of Second Life allows users to build original domains and interact with others through computer simulations of real world activities.

Better systems of expressing human emotions in these computer systems would be advantageous. Emoticons, textual descriptions and other methods of conveying emotion to other members are fairly rudimentary and are based on manual inputs from a user, which the user may refuse to provide or may misrepresent to others. Even when trying to give honest information about an emotional state, a user is often poorly capable of self-assessment.

This patent application, filed by IBM with the USPTO in November 2013, would protect a system capable of incorporating human emotion into a computer product through multiple sensory inputs. The multiple sensory inputs are capable of measuring physiological responses in an individual and processing those inputs so as to create an emotional dimension value. This emotional dimension value can be turned into data useful for driving programmatic actions based on user emotions.

This system would allow for in-channel processing of human emotional inputs from inputs such as facial expression, vocal tone and semantics analysis. Different physiological inputs can be weighted differently so that a program may give a higher priority to heart rate or facial expression for deriving emotional data. This also helps in instances where physiological inputs give conflicting responses indicating both positive and negative emotional behaviors.

Although Claim 1 is quite long, which would normally indicate narrow patent protection, this system’s ability to improve the emotional response of many software technologies could make it a pretty valuable invention. As well, elongated independent claims are frequently seen in system and method claims that relate to software because of the nature of software requires multiple aspects of the innovation to be recited in order to be protected. Furthermore, this particular application is a continuation of U.S. Patent Application No.20110040155, which received a Notice of Allowance on December 17, 2013. Thus, the length of the claim may not be indicative of value. It may well also suggest that the claim as written has a real chance to be allowed without much, if any, amendment.

As Claim 1 states, International Business Machines is trying to protect:

“A system for incorporating human emotions in a computing environment comprising: one or more processors, and a memory storing computer readable program code; a plurality of discrete sensory channels each for handling sensory input detected via one or more sensors, each of the one or more sensors comprising hardware, wherein different senses are associated with different ones of the discrete sensory channels, wherein each of the discrete sensory channels is a sensory channel corresponding to a specific emotion dimension, wherein sensory input handled within the sensory channels comprises physiological input providing a physiological measurement from a body of the user; a plurality of in-channel processors, each being one of the one or more processors, that process sensory input specific to the channel and that generate emotion dimension values from the sensory input, wherein each emotion dimension value has been transformed to be independent of idiosyncrasies of a sensory capture device from which the sensory input was originally obtained; and a sensory aggregator, implemented in the computer readable program code stored in the memory and executable by at least one of the one or more processors, for aggregating emotion dimension values generated in a per-channel basis by the in-channel processors to generate at least one emotion datum value, which is a value for an emotional characteristic of a user from whom the sensory input was gathered, wherein said emotion datum value is a value independent of any single one of said sensory channels, and is an application independent value that is able to be utilized by a plurality of independent applications to discern emotions of said user and to cause application specific code of the independent applications to be reactive to changes in sensory aggregator generated emotion datum values.”


Other Patent Applications

Digital means of communication are another important field of technological development in recent years, and IBM has plenty of patent applications that they’ve filed with the USPTO to protect related innovations. These patent applications describe various methods acted upon digital communications which are meant to improve Web services. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140067975, entitled Processing Messages, discusses a system that utilizes analysis of user messages, including text or rich media messages, to better determine content of interest to that user on microblogging platforms. Methods for preventing unintended recipients of e-mail content could be protected for IBM through U.S. Patent Application No. 20140067942, which is titled Determining Recommended Recipients of a Communication. This system would analyze the content of a message and then determine recommended recipients based on the content and organizational attributes of a recipient from human resources databases or elsewhere.

We also discovered a couple of other patent applications that offer a look at some intriguing inventions regarding user browsing and security applications for online services. IBM hopes to protect an intuitive system for creating stronger passwords by filing U.S. Patent Application No. 20140068733, filed under the title Managing Password Strength. This system collects personal information about a user from multiple independent sources to present feedback about a password selection that is more difficult for an unauthorized user to guess based on personal knowledge of a person. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140067818, titled Pushing Specific Content to a Predetermined Webpage, describes improved systems of presenting user-provided content through online portals such as Facebook or the Chinese microblogging site Weibo. This patent application would protect a method of gauging a user’s emotional status and matching that to an emotional status expressed by other user content. Based on the social networking services cited by the patent application, as well as the fact that all of the inventors in this IBM patent are Chinese, this innovation may be more widely used among social networks in Asiatic countries.



Issued Patents of Note

The incredible patent portfolio held by IBM is a topic we’ve discussed whenever we return to profile this corporation in the Companies We Follow series. For a couple of decades now, IBM has been the top recipient of U.S. patents assigned by the USPTO. IBM has received upwards of at least 150 patents alone since the beginning of March. Out of the massive number of recently issued patents, we noticed some interesting ones protecting novel systems for user interaction on computing devices.

A couple of patents once again return us to the world of digital communication, especially regarding privacy and customization in digital messaging interfaces. U.S. Patent No. 8671131, entitled Method and System Enabling the Cancellation of a Previously-Sent E-Mail Message, protects a system that enables e-mail users to cancel a message after it has been sent. This system would enable a message to be cancelled even if it has been sent to multiple users and opened by a couple of those recipients. U.S. Patent No. 8671342, issued under the title Desired Font Rendering, presents a quirky little innovation to digital messaging means that we felt was worth covering. This patent protects a system of creating rendering instructions for text that allows a recipient to view a text in a certain font without having to download that font to their computer or device.

Inventions designed to improve user interactions with computing machines for various applications are again in focus with some of the recently issued IBM patents we’re discovering today. Virtual universes where users can interact with others through representational avatars will be affected by the system laid out in U.S. Patent No. 8671349, titled Virtual Universe Teleportation Suggestion Service. This patented system enables better teleportation suggestions for exploring online worlds based on user inventory analysis, past teleportation history and other factors, so as to present new and engaging online experiences to a user. U.S. Patent No. 8671388, which is titled Software Development and Programming Through Voice, protects a system that enables users to create voice applications for voice sites operating on the World Wide Telecom Web (WWTW), a kind of alternate network to the World Wide Web that users can access through telephone services. This system is designed so that novice programmers can create voice site applications through the WWTW in their own native language.

As we covered in our reporting on the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas during early January, a major trend in consumer appliance technologies is the “Internet of Things” that creates an interconnectedness for just about anything, from toothbrushes to tennis rackets. Today, we’re wrapping up with a quick look at IBM’s U.S. Patent No. 8671099, entitled Clustering Devices in an Internet of Things (‘IoT’). This patent protects a method of clustering devices on a single network by determining similar capabilities and attributes for devices. This is designed to enable easier management of heterogenous devices on a home network.


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One comment so far.

  • [Avatar for Benny]
    March 18, 2014 07:48 am

    It looks like more than a full time job for IBM just keeping track of who is potentially infringing their patents.