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U.S. Patent No. 7,503,006: Visual indication of current voice speaker
Issued March 10, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘006 patent provides a method for visually indicating a voice speaker during an online game. The method provides for indication symbols to be visible whenever two players meet during the game. Thus, whenever two players approach each other in the game a text or a symbol will be located above them notifying the other player whether or not the other person is capable of voice communication. One benefit of this invention is that a player has the ability to identify the speaker and subsequently privately communicate or even block the other user if he so desires.

Abstract:

Visually identifying one or more known or anonymous voice speakers to a listener in a computing session. For each voice speaker, voice data include a speaker identifier that is associated with a visual indicator displayed to indicate the voice speaker who is currently speaking. The speaker identifier is first used to determine voice privileges before the visual indicator is displayed. The visual indicator is preferably associated with a visual element controlled by the voice speaker, such as an animated game character. Visually identifying a voice speaker enables the listener and/or a moderator of the computing session to control voice communications, such as muting an abusive voice speaker. The visual indicator can take various forms, such as an icon displayed adjacent to the voice speaker's animated character, or a different icon displayed in a predetermined location if the voice speaker's animated character is not currently visible to the listener.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for visually indicating a voice speaker to a listener in a context of a computing session, comprising the steps of: (a) obtaining a speaker identifier, the speaker identifier including a user name gamertag, from voice data transmitted by the voice speaker; (b) associating the speaker identifier with a visual indicator used for indicating voice speakers; (c) selectively and temporarily, when the voice speaker is speaking, displaying the visual indicator and selectively and temporarily, when the voice speaker is speaking, displaying the user name gamertag, and when the visual indicator and the user name gamertag are displayed, displaying the visual indicator and the user name adjacent to one another, on the display to indicate that the voice speaker is speaking; (d) receiving user input selecting a players tab view that provides information on players in a current game session and in response to receiving user input selecting a players tab view: displaying a player's list including a player ID column listing gamertags for players in a current game session, and displaying a voice communication column capable of selectively displaying for each of the players in the player ID column each of: a muted icon that indicates that a local listener has muted voice communication from a selected player, a persistent bidirectional mute icon that indicates that the local listener or the network gaming service has prohibited the corresponding player from speaking to the listener and hearing any voice communication from the listener, a null icon that indicates that a corresponding player does not have a voice communicator, and a hear-only icon that indicates that a corresponding player can hear voice communication but does not have a microphone for speaking to other players.

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