How Virtual Worlds Could Entertain Viewers During Commercials

Viewers unable to skip ads should be able to interact in virtual worlds with users stuck watching the same commercials, inventor Christopher Amidon suggests in a recent patent. 

Amidon
Amidon

“Aspects of the present invention are directed to optimizing the user representations and interactions within such dynamic virtual environments, and so provide features for representing the users, the media content and advertisements accessed by such users, other content available from such users, and other related parameters,” Amidon writes in a patent assigned to Qurio Holdings, Inc. Amidon is now software development manager at North Carolina-based VitalSource Technologies.

The patent, titled, “System and method for representing content, user presence and interaction within virtual world advertising environments,” was issued in August.

Abstract: A control system renders a shared virtual environment to one or more users and obtains metadata associated with content accessed by the users. Representations based on the gathered metadata are provided to a viewing user, and may include visual elements serving as host, content and/or presence representations. Applicable representations are identified from a plurality of defined possible content representations based on the metadata associated with and obtained for a hosting user. The representations may be descriptive of a variety of parameters, including but not limited to the type, timing, nature or other parameters associated with content currently being accessed by a hosting user, content available from the hosting user, a future schedule for content access, time remaining for the hosting user to remain within a shared virtual environment, the hosting user’s social network status relative to the viewing user. Presence representations may be displayed to provide information on a hosting user’s presence availability within a shared virtual environment relative to one or more determined time slots.

Patent

Claims:

1. A control system comprising at least one computing device adapted to: render a shared virtual environment to a viewing user, wherein the shared virtual environment is also accessible by at least one hosting user; determine at least one advertisement time slot in a media broadcast accessed by a given hosting user, wherein the given hosting user is capable of being present within the shared virtual environment during the at least one advertisement time slot in the media broadcast and the media broadcast is separate from the shared virtual environment; and identify a content representation that is indicative of content associated with the given hosting user; and effect presentation to a viewing user of the content representation in association with a host representation representing the given hosting user.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the content representation provides an indication of estimated remaining time within the at least one advertisement time slot.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the content representation provides an indication of estimated time remaining until the given hosting user enters the shared virtual environment.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein the content representation comprises a visual element selected from a plurality of visual elements, wherein the plurality of visual elements comprises at least one visual element indicating user absence from the shared virtual environment and a plurality of visual elements indicating user presence within the shared virtual environment for different estimated periods of time.

5. The system of claim 1, wherein said at least one computing device is further adapted to execute at least one virtual advertisement in the shared virtual environment.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein said at least one computing device is further adapted to select the virtual environment rendered to the viewing user, and wherein said selecting comprises choosing a virtual environment with one or more virtual parameters that are matched to at least one parameter associated with the viewing user.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein the one or more virtual environment parameters that are matched to at least one parameter associated with the viewing user comprise one or more of user identifiers, user demographics, user interests, viewer identifiers, viewer demographics, viewer interests, current time of day, current month or day, current season of the year, genre of current media content, rating of current media content, and user location.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein said at least one computing device is further configured to: determine an advertisement presentation opportunity; and execute at least one advertisement in the shared virtual environment.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein the at least one advertisement comprises a virtual advertisement.

10. The system of claim 1, wherein effecting presentation of the content representation comprises: filtering one or more of the host representation and the content representation based on user preferences of the viewing user to provide filtered content representations; and effecting presentation of at least one of the filtered representations to the viewing user.

11. The system of claim 1, wherein the host representation is an avatar representing the given hosting user in the shared virtual environment, and effecting presentation of the content representation comprises effecting presentation of the content representation in association with the avatar within a view of the shared virtual environment presented to the viewing user.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein the content representation is a visual element presented alongside the avatar within the view of the shared virtual environment presented to the viewing user.

13. The system of claim 1, wherein one or more of the host representation and the content representation is further descriptive of content available from a hosting user.

14. The system of claim 1, wherein one or more of the host representation and the content representation is descriptive of the current content being accessed by a hosting user.

15. The system of claim 1, wherein one or more of the content representation host and the content representation is descriptive of a future schedule for accessing content associated with a hosting user.

16. The system of claim 1, wherein said at least one computing device is further adapted to receive a content transfer initiation event from a client device of the viewing user for initiating transfer of at least a portion of content currently accessed by the hosting user; and in response to the content transfer initiation event, effecting transfer of the at least a portion of the content currently accessed by the hosting user to the client device of the viewing user.

17. The system of claim 1, wherein said at least one computing device is further adapted to receive a content transfer initiation event from a client device of the viewing user for initiating transfer of at least a portion of content available from the hosting user; and in response to the content transfer initiation event, effecting transfer of the at least a portion of the content available from the hosting user to the client device of the viewing user.

18. The system of claim 1, wherein one or more of the host representation and the content representation is descriptive of time remaining for the given hosting user to be present within the shared virtual environment.

19. The system of claim 1, wherein one or more of the host representation and the content representation comprises a buffered display of at least a portion of content currently accessed by the hosting user.

20. The system of claim 1, wherein one or more of the host representation and the content representation is descriptive of the hosting user’s social network status relative to the viewing user.

21. The system of claim 1, wherein said control system comprises a server coupled over a network to a client device associated with the viewing user and a client device associated with the hosting user.

22. The system of claim 1, wherein said control system comprises one or more client devices associated with one or more of the viewing and hosting users and other networked users adapted to operate in a distributed configuration.

23. A control system comprising at least one computing device adapted to: render a shared virtual environment to a viewing user, wherein the shared virtual environment is also accessible by at least one hosting user; determine at least one advertisement slot in a media broadcast accessed by a given hosting user, wherein the given hosting user is capable of being present within the shared virtual environment during the at least one advertisement slot in the media broadcast and the media broadcast is separate from the shared virtual environment; and identify a content representation that is indicative of content associated with the given hosting user; and effect presentation to a viewing user of the content representation in association with a host representation representing the given hosting user.

24. The system of claim 1, wherein the media broadcast is a television broadcast.

25. The system of claim 23, wherein said at least one computing device is further adapted to coordinate rendering of the shared virtual environment on a plurality of playback devices by: receiving from the plurality of playback devices schedule information identifying content played by the plurality of playback devices; and coordinating advertisement presentation opportunities in the content played by the plurality of playback devices, wherein the shared virtual environment is accessible by the plurality of playback devices for access rendering during the coordinated advertisement presentation opportunities.

26. A method comprising: rendering a shared virtual environment to a viewing user, wherein the shared virtual environment is also accessible by at least one hosting user; determining at least one advertisement time slot in a media broadcast accessed by a given hosting user, wherein the given hosting user is capable of being present within the shared virtual environment during the at least one advertisement time slot in the media broadcast and the media broadcast is separate from the shared virtual environment; and identifying a content representation that is indicative of content associated with the given hosting user; and effecting presentation to a viewing user of the content representation in association with a host representation representing the given hosting user.