The US Patent & Trademark Office recently published a patent application from Microsoft that reveals a plan to add biometrics to devices such as a stylus. A fingerprint sensor built into this next generation stylus could be programmed to allow a user to largely login invisibly to not only a single device but rather to a network of devices including a user's personal computers, television, game console, vehicle and/or office door. It's definitely one way to breathe new life into the stylus.
Microsoft's Patent Overview
Conventional use of identity by computing devices is often basic and inefficient. For example, login screens with passwords or PIN codes are the most common identity technique, which are generally time consuming and susceptible to hacking, especially if a user typically interacts with a large number of computing device in a given day.
Microsoft's invention and solution relates to stylus computing environment techniques. In one or more implementations, a stylus may be used to identify a user based on a variety of characteristics including fingerprint recognition obtained by stylus when the user picks up their stylus.
Once the stylus has established the user's identity, it will use such information to maintain the user "identified" state as long as they continue to hold the stylus. This identity may serve as a basis of a variety of actions, such as login the user, launch applications, provide a customized environment, obtain configuration settings particular to the user, obtain a current state of a user's interaction with one device and employ this state seamlessly to other devices.
Example Environment Using Stylus & Gestures
Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 illustrated below is an example environment # 100 that is operable to employ stylus computing environment techniques. The illustrated environment includes an example of a computing device #102 (shown under the tablet) that may be configured in a variety of ways.
For example, the computing device may be configured as a traditional computer such as a desktop computer, a laptop, a mobile station, an entertainment appliance, a set-top box communicatively coupled to a television, a wireless phone, a netbook, a game console, and so forth as shown in relation to FIG. 6.
Thus, the computing device may range from full resource devices with substantial memory and processor resources (e.g., personal computers, game consoles) to a low-resource device with limited memory and/or processing resources (e.g., traditional set-top boxes, hand-held game consoles). The computing device may also relate to software that causes the computing device to perform one or more operations.
The computing device is illustrated as including an input/output module #104. The input/output module is representative of functionality to identify inputs and cause operations to be performed that correspond to the inputs. For example, gestures may be identified by the input/output module in a variety of different ways. For example, the input/output module may be configured to recognize a touch input, such as a finger of a user's hand (#106) as proximal to a display device such as a tablet shown as #108 using touchscreen functionality.
Microsoft states that the touch input may also be recognized as including attributes (e.g., movement, selection point, etc.) that are usable to differentiate the touch input from other touch inputs recognized by the input/output module. This differentiation may then serve as a basis to identify a gesture from the touch inputs and consequently an operation that is to be performed based on identification of the gesture.
The example set in patent FIG 1 shows a user choosing a photo on a touch display and dragging and dropping it in a set way as a part of a login process. The "drag and drop" gesture is then recognized by the Input/Output module. A variety of different types of gestures may be recognized including gestures made with a stylus.
Three Different Identities in Play
Microsoft states that it should be noted that there are actually three different identities in play: 1) that of the stylus hardware itself, 2) that of the interaction device that a stylus may be sensed on, and 3) the user's identity proper.
These may be separated for a richer and more robust treatment of stylus-based identification techniques and interactions. For example, one is a globally unique identifier that may be encoded into the pen itself. This may be used to tell the digitizer "which stylus" is being used to interact with a display device, which stylus is located nearby, and so on.
This may be a globally unique identifier or GUID that the user initially registers to tie the stylus to an online account/identity. Henceforth the GUID is a proxy for user identity.
This may be fortified with other techniques discussed in Microsoft's patent filing such as sensing grip and movement angles of the pen to verify that the intended user.
The second example involves the identity of the user proper. This is a validated identity that is associated with certain digital rights. The identity of the user and the identifier on the pen may not be the same. For example, a user may give their stylus to a friend to enable the friend to perform a mark-up. If the system can recognize that a valid stylus is being used, but the person holding it is not the owner, then some operations such as mark-up may still be permitted.
A third example involves implementations where certain combinations of stylus, device (e.g., slate vs. reader vs. another user's slate), and user identity bring up different default settings, user experiences, or sets of digital rights that may be automatically configured by sensing each of these elements. A variety of other examples are also contemplated.
The authentication of the user's identity may be used to perform a variety of different actions. For example, the computing device may be configured to obtain data that is particular to the user, such as data that is local to the computing device, stored in the stylus and/or obtained from one or more network services implemented by a service provider #122 for access via a network # 124.
Overview of the New Stylus
Microsoft's patent FIG. 2 noted below is an illustration of a system showing an example implementation of the stylus in greater detail.
Microsoft notes that a variety of different types of data may be collected from the sensors that are noted as patent point #210 above. For example, the sensors may be configured to detect biometric data from a user that grasps the stylus. The types of biometric data can include fingerprints, temperature and scent but to name a few.
The identification data stored in the user's stylus and/or devices like a smartphone could also one day be used to gain entrance to a vehicle, office and/or home. Thus, in some embodiments, "logging in" might be performed as a lightweight operation that is largely invisible to the user.
In a final graphic shown in patent FIG. 5 we see is a flow diagram depicting a procedure in an example implementation in which a network service is leveraged using a stylus to provide a continued computing environment.
Microsoft originally filed their patent application under serial number 350540 back in Q1 2012. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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