June 23, 2004 6:50 AM PDT

Microsoft patents body power

Microsoft has been awarded a patent for using human skin as a power conduit and data bus.

Patent No. 6,754,472, which was published Tuesday, describes a method for transmitting power and data to devices worn on the body and for communication of data between those devices.

In its filing, Microsoft cites the proliferation of wearable electronic devices, such as wristwatches, pagers, PDAs (worn on people's belts) and small displays that can now be mounted on headgear.

"As a result of carrying multiple portable electronic devices, there is often a significant amount of redundancy in terms of input/output devices included in the portable devices used by a single person," says the filing. "For example, a watch, pager, PDA and radio may all include a speaker."

To reduce the redundancy of input/output devices, Microsoft's patent proposes a personal area network that allows a single data input or output device to be used by multiple portable devices.

Personal area networks, or PANs, are nothing new. Some, such as Bluetooth, use radio signals, while others use infrared. Some work has been done on near-field intrabody communications--most notably by IBM's Almaden Research Labs, which at Comdex 1996 demonstrated a prototype device, which was about the size of a pack of playing cards, that let two people exchange electronic business cards by shaking hands.

In its filing, Microsoft says its work addresses wearable devices that are too small to have any kind of interface or even a battery, such as earrings. The company proposes using pulsed AC or DC signals to power the devices. A 100Hz signal could be used to power one device, while a 150Hz signal could be used to power another, the company said, and data signals can be modulated on top of these power signals.

Furthermore, Microsoft said, the physical resistance offered by the human body could be used to create a virtual keyboard on a patch of skin. And just to make sure it has covered all its bases, the filing concludes with a reference for Fido.

"It will be apparent," it says, "that the body may be that of a wide variety of living animals and need not be limited to being a body of a human being."

The new patent is just one of many for the software giant. Since last year, Microsoft has been on a campaign to generate more money from its intellectual property, and in recent weeks the company has obtained patents for double-clicking, XML-scripting methods and a system for generating a to-do list from source code.

Matt Loney of ZDNet UK reported from London.

6 comments

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Fido?
I guess that in the future your own pets will form the first biological FidoNet!

"Honey, we've got to go to the dog park, I'm expecting an email."
Posted by Wuzzard (10 comments )
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idiotic
With rewarding patents like this (it isn't the first of its kind) the US is on schedule with getting US patents banned worldwide.

In other words: you created this mess now deal with the results, just don't bother us with it.

Oh yes, I can hear people saying "respect international agreements blah blah blah" already. However, such agreements do tend to be based on being used seriously etc etc. So far the US is demonstrating an increasing effort to achieve the opposite of that. In a way that could also be politicaly explained as serving national self interest. That won't be left unanswered for long. Certainly when certain vendors start trying to cash in on their US awarded patents. Or do you think there's any other reason why a company would start harvesting whatever patent they can get their hands on? Perhaps to protect themselves? Yeah right, dream on.
Posted by arthur-b (31 comments )
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Posted by (1 comment )
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Microsoft Patents Junk
Seems like Microsoft is scrambling to patent truly usefull
"innovations" like body appliances (lemme see that'll hit the
market around 2020) and notes in software in developement,
while the real innovators are patenting user interfaces and whole
lines of hardware and other consumer products that will truly
enhance our lives. Go Go Bill, enjoy your patented apple....ACK!
It's a red delicious too! The most commercial, tough-skinned
and tasteless apple invented.
Posted by sandman619 (54 comments )
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Vaporware?
Why should the authorities allow patents for vaporware?
Posted by (23 comments )
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"Business @ The Speed of Thought"?
This is a specimen of M$'s 3000+ patents filings? An answer to innovation? A pipe dream that it's technological verification is based on a mere caricature? This patent is absolutely ridiculous.

I can't believe that they were awarded this patent. Has it become so cheap to award patents? Perhaps I should file a patent on astral sex with Internet porn females that catch my fancy. I have a better case than M$ - I am actually working on it.

Speaking seriously, I think it's about time we take a second look at the legal framework regarding patents and the DMCA. Companies like MS have and will continue to abuse it. Now I know what BG means by "Business @ The Speed of Thought"
Posted by (23 comments )
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