RealTime IT News

Microsoft Wishing Up a User 'Magic Wand'

As technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, will users adopt something like a Magic Wand -- really a high-tech universal remote control -- to help them interact with the world around them via gestures and other movements?

If Microsoft has any say, they will.

That's because Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has applied for a patent on a "Magic Wand" -- literally.

Of course, the "magic" will actually be provided via multiple communications technologies and various types of controllers, including video cameras, accelerometers, and other velocity sensors, as well as location and direction sensors.

In the patent application, which surfaced late last week, Microsoft actually refers to the patentable technology as a "Magic Wand." The patent application's abstract reads:

"The architecture can exist in whole or in part in a housing that can resemble a wand or similar object. The architecture can utilize one or more sensor from a collection of sensors to determine an orientation or gesture in connection with the wand, and can further issue an instruction to update a state of an environmental component based upon the orientation."

Microsoft's application does not directly mention existing commercial products that may already provide some of the same sorts of control using a wand-like device -- for instance, Nintendo's Wii controller -- and thus other companies may have competing patents.

The popular "Harry Potter" novels and movies, however, do get a mention in the application, which refers to them as helping to popularize the concept of magic wands among potential users.

"Even the most pragmatic individual would have trouble arguing against the merits or utility of, say, a magic wand that actually worked to control or communicate with objects or components in an associated nearby environment," the application continued.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that it filed the application and that no patent for the technology has yet been granted. However, while the application seemed to give a nod to existing wand devices like the Wii, the company's approach aims to provide control over an increasingly complex world of services and devices, not just a game console, while at the same time simplifying interactions for users.

"A number of devices exist that are intended to operate or control objects in the environment, even some that are specifically intended to leverage, simulate, or promote the appearance of magic," the application said.

"However, systems or devices in this technological area as well as even much broader market segments aimed at, say, consumer devices in general often suffer from a variety of difficulties that stem from two market-driving factors that are distinct and sometimes at odds with one another. In particular, consumers want devices that have a very rich feature set. On the other hand, consumers also want devices that are small, convenient (e.g., to carry), and easy to use," it continued.

Microsoft has been patenting inventions at a breakneck pace for the past decade or more.

In February, Microsoft celebrated its 10,000th patent -- that one for some of the technology used in the company's Surface computer.