PatentMonkey: Microsoft Enhanced TV

MSEnhancedTVMicrosoft recently received a patent covering enhanced TV by streaming an interactive layer in conjunction with the broadcast content. One of many video related patents that they hold, actually.

While the Nintendo Wii has brought us one step closer to point-and-click TV without much of a word being uttered about its potential and Joost soaks up the glory of being an innovative new TV platform, behind the scenes over the past decade, Microsoft and others have been building systems to deliver rich, interactive media experiences for your TV.

Microsoft’s invention targets using low-end set top cable boxes as a relay to join interactive content, perhaps in the form of MPEG streaming media, and join it to tagged existing content.

Specifically, Microsoft’s new patent describes:

enhanced programming techniques according to the present invention identify enhanced programming content associated with programming that is to be delivered to an entertainment module [e.g. a TV], prepare such enhanced programming content remotely from the entertainment module into a form that the entertainment module may present to the viewer, and upon receiving input from the viewer, delivers the enhanced programming content to the entertainment module.

All these recent moves by Microsoft to get into hardware and the race to consolidate online and offline advertising makes for an interesting series of potential events for Microsoft in its continued attempt to maintain Google as its main rival.

A simple move would be to leverage the X-Box as an enhanced cable TV viewing portal that combines cable and internet content to display on the same screen. Think Adobe Interactive Flash as two layers where the first layer is your typical TV show and your second layer streams down via the internet and provides, you know, enhanced stuff. OK, Microsoft isn’t describing a lot of use cases in the patent, but we find the ability to combine two streams into one viewer with interactive components quite interesting (e.g. click to get info from IMDB, click to see product ads, click to tag something in a show, etc).

A device developer in this space to watch is Hillcrest Labs which is developing an interactive remote control and framework to manipulate your TV or PC using motion sensors in the device (see demo)

The space is exciting and a lot of devices are becoming more cost effective. Interactive TV has the potential to turn our TVs into the internet, or maybe a more passive and controlled version of it.

In related news, Microsoft is being sued over allegedly misleading a group of inventors to gain license to certain interactive TV patents. [Broadcast News]