Comcast Wins Patent for Fan UI

Comcast won a U.S. patent on Tuesday for a circular user interface it developed more than a decade ago for The Fan, one of the first Flash-based program guides for online video.

Three of the four inventors named on the patent are Comcast veterans who now work at design firm Cainkade.

“The product changed our careers, and arguably the trajectory of Comcast itself. Before the digital products we were working on, there was an active debate inside of Comcast whether should be in the digital business at all – and just pay Yahoo or AOL (remember this is 2003) to handle it for them. The Fan was a defining product that changed many things,” lead inventor Eric Elia, a Brightcove and Comcast veteran who is now managing director of Cainkade’s San Francisco office, wrote in a LinkedIn post about this article.

Elia
Elia

The user interface featured in the patent that became public on Tuesday would allow a subscriber to navigate multiple programming networks by spinning thumbnail graphics that are placed in a circle around a rectangular video feed. By pressing a “spin button,” subscribers could view content organized in categories such as “today’s best,” or they could select from random thumbnail images that are selected randomly.

Co-inventor Jeremy Landis worked at Comcast Interactive Media and Code and Theory before founding Cainkade.

Jeremy Langdon, who is also named as an inventor, runs Philadelphia-based software development firm Langdon Consulting. Comcast is one of his clients, according to Langdon’s LinkedIn profile.

Co-inventor Salve Retuta Pascual is also a Comcast veteran. Pascual, who worked as a senior designer at Comcast from 2000 to 2004, is now creative director at Cainkade.

The patent was originally filed in May 2004.

Abstract: A method and system for playing video on a graphical user interface (GUI) that provides a singular user interface for searching, retrieving, and playing video available over a network from a server.

Patent

Related article:
How Comcast Could Build A Better iPad

Claims: 

Landis
Landis

1. A method comprising: outputting, for display from a computing device, a graphical user interface (GUI) for playing video available from a server, the graphical user interface comprising: a window arranged to display a current video; a plurality of thumbnail cells proximate the window and arranged to display a plurality of thumbnails concurrently with the window displaying the current video, each thumbnail being associated with a different one of a plurality of videos available from a server, each thumbnail being separately selectable for causing playback of its associated video as the current video in the window, and at least one of the thumbnails having a graphical icon displayed thereon in which the graphical icon is selectable to play an animated video clip that is representative of the different one of the plurality of videos associated with the at least one of the thumbnails; and a control menu comprising a selectable “left” arrow and a selectable “right” arrow for shifting the thumbnails for display in the thumbnail cells in a left and right direction respectively such that a new thumbnail is presented for display with each shifting thumbnail; and outputting, from the computing device, a signal for display of an identifier of a source of the different one of the plurality of videos associated with the at least one of the thumbnails when a cursor is rolled over the at least one thumbnail.

2. The method of claim 1, at least another one of the thumbnails comprising a video frame selected from the different one of the plurality of videos associated with the at least another one of the thumbnails.

3. The method of claim 1, at least another one of the thumbnails comprising a static image that is representative of the different one of the plurality of videos associated with the at least another one of the thumbnails.

Langdon
Langdon

4. The method of claim 1, at least another one of the thumbnails comprising a textual description that is representative of the different one of the plurality of videos associated with the at least another one of the thumbnails.

5. The method claim 4, the textual description comprising an indicator of a provider for the different one of the plurality of videos associated with the at least another one of the thumbnails.

6. The method of claim 4, the textual description comprising a title of the different one of the plurality of videos associated with the at least another one of the thumbnails.

7. The method of claim 1, the at least one thumbnail having the graphical icon being selectable to play the animated video clip in the thumbnail.

8. The method of claim 1, further comprising playing one of the plurality of videos automatically as the current video in the window in response to a selection of one of the thumbnails.

9. The method of claim 1, further comprising enlarging the window such that the window at least partially covers a portion of the GUI having the thumbnails.

Pascual
Pascual

10. The method of claim 1, the thumbnails being presented in the GUI arranged in an arc around a periphery of the window.

11. The method of claim 1, the control menu comprising a selectable spin button, that when selected, randomly changes the thumbnails presented for display.

12. The method of claim 1, the outputting for display of the source of the video associated with the at least one thumbnail when the cursor is rolled over the at least one thumbnail comprising presenting for display a channel designation for the video.

13. A method comprising: outputting, for display from a computing device, a program guide graphical user interface (GUI) having a window and a plurality of thumbnails proximate the window, thumbnails being disposed along an arc circumscribing the window, each thumbnail displaying a video frame selected from a respective associated video of a plurality of videos available from a server, at least one of the plurality of videos being a television program, and each thumbnail having a bottom edge oriented towards the window; receiving a signal indicating selection of a particular thumbnail; and outputting one of the plurality of videos for display associated with the selected thumbnail in the window.

14. The method of claim 13 further comprising continuously streaming the one of the plurality of videos being outputted, the continuous streaming being characterized by buffering less than about 10 seconds of video.

15. The method of claim 13 further comprising progressively streaming the one of the plurality of videos being outputted, the progressive streaming being characterized by buffering greater than about 10 seconds of video and less than a running length of video.

16. The method of claim 13 further comprising downloading an entire running length of the one of the plurality of videos being outputted.

17. The method of claim 13 further comprising configuring the GUI to play video on a computer.

18. The method of claim 13 further comprising configuring the GUI to play for playing video on a television.

19. The method of claim 13 further comprising receiving the plurality of videos over an internet.

20. The method of claim 13 further comprising receiving the plurality of videos over a cable network.

21. The method of claim 13 further comprising searching and retrieving video by controlling rotation of the thumbnails along the arc circumscribing the window.

22. The method of claim 13, further comprising determining the plurality of thumbnails to display proximate the window based on an authentication of a user.

23. The method of claim 13, further comprising determining the plurality of thumbnails to display proximate the window based on receiving a selection from a thumbnail control menu presented on the GUI.

24. The method of claim 13 further comprising presenting for display the thumbnails in a circular pattern around the window of the GUI.

25. The method of claim 24 further comprising: transporting more thumbnails to the GUI than the GUI can simultaneously display; and controlling the GUI to rotate the displayed thumbnails to non-displayed thumbnails in order to display one of the non-displayed thumbnails, wherein the thumbnails are rotated about a circumference of a circle enclosing the window.

26. The method of claim 25 further comprising spinning the displayed thumbnails about the circumference of the circle to display one or more of the non-displayed thumbnails, wherein the spinning causes a random display of a grouping selected from all the thumbnails transported to the GUI.

27. The method of claim 13 further comprising automatically playing the one of the plurality of videos associated with the selected thumbnail in the window of the GUI in response to the signal and replacing the selected thumbnail with a new thumbnail.

28. The method of claim 13 further comprising presenting for display non-selected thumbnails while the one of the plurality of videos associated with of the selected thumbnail is playing.

29. The method of claim 13, further comprising causing a source of the associated video to be displayed over top of the thumbnail when a cursor rolls-over the thumbnail.

30. The method of claim 29, further comprising causing display of a textual description describing the associated video when the cursor rolls-over the thumbnail.

31. The method of claim 13, further comprising displaying the GUI with a first radial segment indicative of a searching function and in response to a selection of the first radial segment, displaying a second radial segment comprising a search menu disposed therein, wherein each of the first and second radial segments are bounded by portions of radial lines originating from a point within the window.

32. The method of claim 13, left and right edges of each thumbnail being formed by segments of radial lines originating from a point within the window, and the bottom edge of each thumbnail being formed by the arc circumscribing the window.

33. An apparatus comprising: a processor; and memory storing instructions that, when executed by the processor, cause the apparatus to: provide a program guide graphical user interface (GUI) configured for operation on the apparatus, the GUI comprising a window configured to display video and a plurality of thumbnails proximate the window, wherein each thumbnail is selectable for playing, in the window, an associated with one of a plurality of videos available from a server, wherein at least one of the plurality of videos is television program, and wherein one or more of the thumbnails are selectable to play an animated video clip that is representative of the associated one of the plurality of videos within the thumbnail during playback of video associated with another thumbnail within the window, wherein the thumbnails are disposed along an arc circumscribing the window, and wherein each thumbnail displays an image having a bottom edge oriented towards the window.

34. The apparatus of claim 33, wherein left and right edges of each thumbnail are formed by segments of radial lines originating from a point within the window and the bottom edge of each thumbnail is formed by the arc circumscribing the window.