Title:
COMPUTER IMPLEMENTED PUZZLE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A computer implemented puzzle constructed using a source image. The puzzle includes a scrambled image creator that creates a scrambled image having a number of regions. The scramble image is created by subdividing the source image into the number of regions having an initial arrangement, rearranging the source regions into a scrambled arrangement, and displaying a portion of the source image within each of the source regions in the regions of the scrambled image according to the scrambled arrangement. The puzzle includes a scrambled image editor configured to allow the user to select a pair of regions of the scrambled image and swap their locations within the scrambled arrangement. The puzzle includes a scrambled image monitor configured to detect when the puzzle is solved which occurs when the scrambled arrangement is identical the initial arrangement. The puzzle displays a reward after the puzzle is solved.



Inventors:
Thelen, Paul (Seattle, WA, US)
Woods, Adrian (Seattle, WA, US)
Chavez, Carl (Seattle, WA, US)
Udd, Steve (Seattle, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/734655
Publication Date:
10/18/2007
Filing Date:
04/12/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
LIDDLE, JAY TRENT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DAVIS WRIGHT TREMAINE, LLP (1201 Third Avenue, Suite 2200, SEATTLE, WA, 98101-3045, US)
Claims:
The invention claimed is:

1. A computer implemented puzzle utilizing a source image, the puzzle comprising: a scrambled image creator configured to use the source image to create a scrambled image having a number of regions and display the scrambled image to the user, wherein the scrambled image creator comprises: a source image sub-divider configured to create a plurality of source regions having an initial arrangement by subdividing the source image into the number of regions, a source region scrambler configured to create a scrambled arrangement of the source regions, and a scrambled image writer configured to display a portion of the source image within each of the source regions in the regions of the scrambled image according to the scrambled arrangement; a scrambled image editor configured to allow the user to select a pair of regions of the scrambled image and to swap the locations of the selected pair within the scrambled arrangement; a scrambled image monitor configured to detect when the puzzle is solved; and a reward generator configured to display an animated display after the scrambled image monitor detects the puzzle is solved.

2. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 1, wherein the scrambled image monitor detects when the puzzle is solved by determining when the scrambled arrangement is substantially identical to the initial arrangement.

3. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 1, further comprising a hint provider configured to identify for the user a first region of the scrambled image and a second region of the scrambled image, wherein one of the first region and the second region is located in the location of the other in the initial arrangement.

4. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 1, wherein the scrambled image editor is configured to disallow selection of a region within the scrambled image having a location within the scrambled arrangement that is identical to the location of the region within the initial arrangement.

5. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 1, wherein the scrambled image editor is configured to provide a visual identification of a region having a location within the scrambled arrangement that is identical to the location of the region within the initial arrangement.

6. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 1, wherein the scrambled image editor is configured to display each of the regions of the pair of selected regions traveling to the other selected region across a portion of the scrambled image.

7. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 1, wherein the scrambled image editor is configured to display each of the regions of the pair of selected regions traveling to the other selected region across a portion of the scrambled image and while each of the regions is traveling, the scrambled image editor displays in a location in the scrambled image vacated by the traveling region a portion of the source image in a region corresponding to that location in the initial arrangement.

8. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 1, wherein the animated display associated with the source image.

9. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 1, wherein both the animated display and source image comprise an advertisement for the same product, service, or event.

10. A method of implementing a puzzle using a source image, the method comprising: scrambling the source image to create a scrambled image by subdividing the source image into a number of regions, each region of the source image comprising a portion of the source image, and assigning each portion of the source image to at least one region of the scrambled image other than the region the portion of the source image occupied in the source image; displaying the scrambled image to a user; receiving from the user an identification of a pair of regions and swapping the portion of the source image assigned to one of the regions of the identified pair of regions with the portion of the source image assigned to the other of the regions of the identified pair of regions; and determining if the scrambled image with the swapped portions of the source image is identical to the source image.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein each portion of the source image is assigned randomly to a region of the scrambled image other than the region the portion of the source image occupied in the source image.

12. The method of claim 10, further comprising, when the scrambled image is determined to be identical to the source image, displaying an animated display to the user.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein both the animated display and source image each comprise an advertisement for a product, service, or event.

14. A computer readable medium having computer executable instructions for implementing a puzzle, the instructions comprising: a image subdividing module configured to subdivide a source image into a plurality of source regions having an initial arrangement, each source region corresponding to a portion of the source image; a region scrambling module configured to create a scrambled arrangement of the source regions; a scrambled image display module configured to display the portion of the source image within each of the source regions according to the scrambled arrangement; a puzzle updating module configured to allow the user to select a pair of source regions within the scrambled arrangement and swap each for the other within the scrambled arrangement; a reward module configured to display an animated display to the user; and a puzzle monitoring module configured to determine when the scrambled arrangement is identical to the initial arrangement, and instruct the reward module to display the animated display to the user.

15. The instructions of the computer readable medium of claim 14 further comprising a hint module configured to identify for the user a first source region and a second source region, wherein one of the first region and the second region is located in the location of the other in the initial arrangement.

16. The instructions of the computer readable medium of claim 14 wherein the puzzle updating module is configured to disallow selection of a source region having a location within the scrambled arrangement that is identical to the location of the source region within the initial arrangement.

17. The instructions of the computer readable medium of claim 14 wherein the puzzle updating module is configured to identify to the user a source region having a location within the scrambled arrangement that is identical to the location of the source region within the initial arrangement.

18. The instructions of the computer readable medium of claim 14 wherein both the animated display and source image comprise an advertisement for the same product or service.

19. A computer implemented puzzle comprising: a source image; means for creating a scrambled image having a number of regions, wherein the means for creating the scrambled image comprises: means for sub-dividing the source image into the number of regions to create a plurality of source regions having an initial arrangement, means for creating a scrambled arrangement of the source regions, and means for displaying a portion of the source image within each of the source regions in the regions of the scrambled image according to the scrambled arrangement; means for allowing the user to select a pair of regions of the scrambled image and means for swapping the locations of the selected pair within the scrambled arrangement; means for detecting when the puzzle is solved; and means for displaying a reward after the means for detecting when the puzzle is solved detects the puzzle is solved.

20. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 19, wherein the reward comprises an animated display and the means for displaying the reward comprises means for displaying the animated display.

21. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 19, wherein the means for detecting when the puzzle is solved detects when the puzzle is solved by determining when the scrambled arrangement is substantially identical to the initial arrangement.

22. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 19, further comprising means for providing a hint by identifying to the user a first region of the scrambled image and a second region of the scrambled image, wherein one of the first region and the second region is located in the location of the other in the initial arrangement.

23. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 19, further comprising means for disallowing the selection of a region within the scrambled image having a location within the scrambled arrangement that is identical to the location of the region within the initial arrangement.

24. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 19, further comprising means for providing a visual identification of a region having a location within the scrambled arrangement that is identical to the location of the region within the initial arrangement.

25. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 19, wherein the means for swapping the locations of the selected pair within the scrambled arrangement comprises means for displaying each of the regions of the pair of selected regions traveling to the other selected region across a portion of the scrambled image.

26. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 19, wherein the means for swapping the locations of the selected pair within the scrambled arrangement comprises means for displaying each of the regions of the pair of selected regions traveling to the other selected region across a portion of the scrambled image and means for displaying in each location vacated by the traveling regions, until the other of the traveling regions arrives at the vacated location, a portion of the source image in a region corresponding to the vacated location in the initial arrangement.

27. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 19, wherein the reward is an animated display associated with the source image.

28. The computer implemented puzzle of claim 19, wherein the reward is an animated display and both the animated display and source image comprise an advertisement for the same product, service, or event.

29. A method of providing an advertisement to a user, the method comprising: subdividing a source image comprising an advertisement into a plurality of source regions having an initial arrangement, each of the source regions comprising a portion of the source image; rearranging the source regions into a scrambled arrangement thereby scrambling the advertisement; displaying the portion of the source image of each of the source regions according to the scrambled arrangement; allowing the user to rearrange the source regions within the scrambled arrangement until the scrambled arrangement is identical to the initial arrangement thereby unscrambling the advertisement; and displaying an animated advertisement related to the advertisement of the source image when the scrambled arrangement is identical to the initial arrangement.

30. A method of providing an advertisement to a user of a computing device having a computing display and an input device, the method comprising: generating the puzzle by subdividing a source image comprising an advertisement into a plurality of source regions having an initial arrangement, each of the source regions comprising a portion of the source image, and rearranging the source regions into a scrambled arrangement; displaying to the user on the computing display the portion of the source image of each of the source regions according to the scrambled arrangement; until the scrambled arrangement is identical to the initial arrangement, receiving an identification of a pair of regions selected by the user from the input device and displaying to the user on the computing display a swapping of the locations of the pair of regions within the scrambled arrangement; and displaying to the user on the computing display a reward comprising an animated advertisement.

31. The method of claim 30, wherein the computing device is coupled to a puzzle server by a network and the puzzle server generates the puzzle, the method further comprising, using the puzzle server to transmit the puzzle via the network to the computing device.

32. The method of claim 31, further comprising: using the computing device to send a request to the puzzle server via the network requesting the generation of the puzzle; and in response to the request, the puzzle server generates the puzzle and transmits the puzzle to the computing device.

33. The method of claim 30, wherein the computing device is coupled to a puzzle server by a network, the method further comprising, using the computing device to send a request to the puzzle server via the network requesting the reward, and using the puzzle server to respond to the request by transmitting the reward to the computing device over the network.

34. The method of claim 33, wherein the computing device detects when the scrambled arrangement is identical to the initial arrangement, and after the computing device detects the scrambled arrangement is identical to the initial arrangement, the computing device sends the request to the puzzle server over the network requesting the reward.

35. The method of claim 30, wherein the reward is displayed to the user on the computing display when the scrambled arrangement is identical to the initial arrangement.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/744,699, filed Apr. 12, 2006.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention is directed generally to computer implemented puzzles and more particularly to computer implemented puzzles used for advertising purposes.

2. Description of the Related Art

When a user seeks to obtain content on the internet, computer implemented advertisements are often perceived by many computer users as an annoyance or inconvenience. This is particularly true on the World Wide Web, where the number of advertisements confronting the user is overwhelming. These advertisements include, for example, pop-up windows, banners, advertisements intermingled with content, and email solicitations.

A particularly frustrating form of advertisement includes animated displays such as short video clips, FLASH® animations, dynamic hyper text markup language (html) content, animated multimedia content, and the like that may be displayed before the content the user is seeking is made available to the user. In some cases, the sought after content is obscured, partially or completely, by the animated display. Further, animated displays are also presented along side the sought after content to draw the users attention away from the content with flashing and other eye-catching elements such as humorous dancing and similar distracting motion.

Not only are many of these advertisements annoying and frustrating, but the bandwidth required to transmit them to the user's computer often increases the amount of time required to load and view web content. This is particularly true when the advertisement precedes the display of the content sought by the user. Consequently, these advertisements increase the amount of time a user must expend to locate and view web content, most often without the user electing to expend the additional time.

Many of these advertisements are designed to appear like games that invite the user to play. When the user clicks on the advertisement, a hyperlink associated with the advertisement, directs the user to another web page, thereby diverting the user from the web page containing the content the user was interested in viewing. These advertisements suffer from two limitations. First, the advertising information the advertiser is interested in communicating to the user contained in the “game” is usually substantively unrelated to the game. By playing the game, the user learns nothing about the product or service being advertised. For example, one currently encountered game involves clicking on moving images of birds to simulate shooting them. When the user is trying to click on the moving images, his/her attention is diverted from the text of the advertisement. Therefore, shooting the birds communicates nothing about the product to the user and detracts from the advertising message. Second, because the game is substantively unrelated to the product or service, when the hyperlink directs the user to the advertiser's website, the user frequently simply exits the advertiser's website without viewing the information contained on the website. This is not surprising because no reason exists to assume the user, who is interested in playing a game that simulates shooting ducks, wants to learn about shampoo, home mortgages, life insurance, or anything other than simulating shooting birds.

The user, who does his or her best simply to ignore the advertisements, often perceives all of this advertising activity as noise. Consequently, advertisers spend millions of dollars on advertising that merely annoys the user, consumes the user's bandwidth, and fails to present the product or service to the user in a manner that attracts the user's interest. Therefore, a need exists for methods of presenting advertisements to the user in a manner that attracts the user's attention without concurrently annoying the user. A need also exists for methods of presenting advertisements when the user has the proper frame of mind to perceive the advertisement positively as well as the product and/or service related thereto.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING(S)

FIG. 1A is an illustration of an embodiment of a computer-implemented puzzle constructed in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 1B is an exemplary source image used to construct the computer-implemented puzzle of FIG. 1A.

FIG. 1C illustrates the source image of FIG. 1B subdivided in a number of regions.

FIG. 1D is an illustration of the puzzle of FIG. 1A after a user has solved a portion of the puzzle.

FIG. 1E is an illustration of the partially solved puzzle of FIG. 1D after the user has swapped the location of two of the unsolved regions of FIG. 1D thereby solving a portion of the puzzle with respect to one of the regions.

FIG. 1F is an illustration a reward displayed after the computer-implemented puzzle of FIG. 1A is solved.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating a method of constructing and solving the computer-implemented puzzle of FIG. 1A.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a computing device configured to implement the computer-implemented puzzle of FIG. 1A.

FIG. 4 is a diagram illustrating a computer network implementation for use with the computer-implemented puzzle of FIG. 1A.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1A, aspects of the invention relate to a computer implemented puzzle 100 illustrated as shown on a computer display (such as a user interface 340 shown in FIG. 3) of a client computer (such as computing device 300 shown in FIG. 3). Referring to FIG. 1B, the puzzle 100 is constructed from a source image 110. The source image 110 may include any type of digital image known in the art such as digital photographs, drawings, and automatically generated computer images.

Referring to FIG. 2, the puzzle 100 may be constructed using a method 240. In a first block 242, the source image 110 (see FIG. 1B) is selected. The source image 110 may be a pre-selected image, an automatically selected image, or an image provided and/or chosen by the user. In a block 244, a number of regions into which to divide the source image 110 is determined.

In various embodiments, the source image 110 is subdivided into a grid or lattice having a predetermined number of rows “N” and a predetermined number of columns “M.” In particular embodiments, the user may provide the number of rows “N,” the number of columns “M,” and/or the total number of regions 120 into which to divide the source image 110. In further embodiments, the number of rows “N,” the number of columns “M,” and/or the total number of regions 120 may be selected randomly from a range of values. For example, the number of rows “N” may be selected randomly within a range of about two rows to about 100 rows and the number of columns “M” may be selected randomly within a range of about two columns to about 100 columns.

In a block 246, the source image 110 is subdivided into the number of regions. Referring to FIG. 1C, the source image 110 is depicted subdivided into the number of regions 120 having an initial arrangement 124. Each of the regions 120 includes a portion 140 of the source image 110. In the illustrated puzzle 100, 30 regions are used; however, those of ordinary skill in the art appreciate that an alternate number of regions may be used and the invention is not limited to a particular number of regions 120. Because in subsequent blocks, the user selects a region 120, the number of regions 120 into which the source image 110 is divided may be determined in part by the size of each of the regions 120 and the user's ability to perceive and select them.

Returning to FIG. 2, in a block 248, the method 240 scrambles or rearranges at least a portion of the regions 120 into a scrambled arrangement 130 (depicted in FIG. 1A). The regions 120 may be scrambled using a random number generator to provide the location of each region 120 within the scrambled arrangement 130 or any method known in the art for rearranging an initial arrangement 124 of the regions 120 into the scrambled arrangement 130 of the regions 120.

In embodiments that subdivide the source image 110 into a grid or lattice having the number of rows “N” and the number of columns “M,” the initial arrangement 124 of the regions 120 includes the number of rows “N” and the number of columns “M.” In such embodiments, the scrambled arrangement 130 also has the number of rows “N” and the number of columns “M.”

Returning to FIG. 2, in a block 250, a scrambled image 200 (see FIG. 1A) is constructed and displayed to the user by displaying the portion 140 of the source image 110 inside each of the regions 120 arranged in the scrambled arrangement 130. At this point, the puzzle 100 is constructed and ready to be solved. The puzzle 100 is solved when the regions 120 are rearranged back into the initial arrangement 124 at which point the scrambled image 200 is substantially identical to the source image 110.

When a region 120 within the scrambled image 200 is located in the same location the region 120 occupied in the initial arrangement 124, the region 120 is considered a solved region 220. On the other hand, when a region 120 within the scrambled image 200 is in a location other than the location the region occupied in the initial arrangement 124, the region 120 is considered an unsolved region 222. While the scrambled arrangement 130 depicted in FIG. 1A includes only unsolved regions 222, embodiments in which the scrambled arrangement 130 includes both unsolved regions 222 and solved regions 220 are also within the scope of the present invention.

In an optional decision block 252, the user may decide to solve the puzzle 100 automatically. If the user decides to solve the puzzle 100 automatically, the regions 120 are automatically rearranged into the initial arrangement 124.

If the user decides not to automatically solve the puzzle 100, in an optional decision block 254, the user decides whether he/she would like a hint to solving the puzzle 100. If the user decides he/she would like the hint, in a block 256, the hint is displayed to the user. After the hint is displayed, the method 240 advances from the block 254 to the block 258. If a hint is not desired, the method 240 advances to a block 258.

In the block 258, the user selects a first unsolved region 222A and a second unsolved region 222B within the scrambled image 200. In a block 260, the location of the first unsolved region 222A within the scrambled arrangement 130 is swapped with the location of the second unsolved region 222B within the scrambled arrangement 130. The user may manually rearrange the unsolved regions 222 by swapping the location of the first unsolved region 222A and the location of the second unsolved region 222B within the scrambled arrangement 130. In particular embodiments, the user simply selects the first unsolved region 222A, the second unsolved region 222B, and the puzzle 100 automatically swaps their locations within the scrambled arrangement 130.

In various embodiments, the swapping operation is animated. For example, in the animation, the first unsolved region 222A may leave its location in the puzzle 100 and travel across the scrambled image 200 to the location of the second unsolved region 222B. Simultaneously, the second unsolved region 222B may leave its location in the puzzle 100 and travel across the scrambled image 200 to the location previously occupied by the first unsolved region 222A.

In particular embodiments, one or more of the regions 120 may be bordered by a frame 150. The frame 150 may provide a visual indication that the first unsolved region 222A and/or the second unsolved region 222B have/has been selected. For example, after the first unsolved region 222A has been selected, the frame 150 around the first unsolved region 222A may change color, thickness, style, and/or intensity to indicate the first unsolved region 222A has been selected. Similarly, the second unsolved region 222B has been selected, the frame 150 around the second unsolved region 222B may change color, thickness, style, and/or intensity to indicate the second unsolved region 222B has been selected.

The frame 150 may also be used to identify the solved regions 220 in the scrambled image 200. For example, as the one depicted in FIG. 1D, the frame 150 may be omitted around the solve region 220. In alternate embodiments, the frame 150 around the solved region 220 may change color, thickness, style, and/or intensity to indicate the second unsolved region 222B has been selected. Further, the portion 140 of the source image 110 inside the regions 120 may identify the regions 120 that are solve regions 220. For example, the color and/or intensity of the portion 140 of the source image 110 inside the solved regions 220 may differ from the color and/or intensity of the portion 140 of the source image 110 inside unsolved region 222. In particular embodiments, the portion 140 of the source image 110 inside unsolved regions 222 may be displayed in color while the portion 140 of the source image 110 displayed inside solved regions 220 may be displayed in grayscale, or vise versa.

In a decision block 262, the method 240 determines whether the puzzle 100 is solved. If the puzzle 100 is not solved, in various embodiments, the method 240 may return to the optional decision block 252 and allow the user to automatically solve the puzzle 100, the optional decision block 254 and offer the user a hint, or the block 258 and allow the user to select another pair of regions 120 to swap. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 2, the user is allowed to select another pair of unsolved regions 222. The method 240 may repeat blocks 258, 260, and 262 until the puzzle 100 is solved.

If the puzzle 100 is solved, in a block 264, the method 240 displays a reward 230 (see FIG. 1F) to the user. As depicted in FIG. 1F, the puzzle 100 is solved when the regions 120 are rearranged by a user (or automatically) back into the initial arrangement 124. In particular embodiments, the reward 230 includes an animated display. As used herein the term “animated display” refers to a display depicting moving subject matter. The animated display may include animated subject matter, such as a cartoon, a series of images captured using real life subject matter, such as a video, and a combination thereof. Non-limiting examples of an animated display include a digital video (e.g., a movie clip, a movie trailer, sporting event footage, a television show or portion thereof, a music video, a video blog, a cartoon, an animated motion video, and a similar motion picture and animation), an animated feature, a streaming media broadcast, a video cast, and the like. As is appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, the animated display may include a playback of any multimedia file depicting moving subject matter.

After the reward 230 is displayed in an optional decision block 264, the method 240 decides whether to reset the puzzle 100. In various embodiments, the user may be presented with an option of resetting the puzzle 100. Alternatively, the puzzle 100 may reset automatically. If the puzzle 100 is to be reset, in various embodiments, the method 100 may return to the block 242, the block 244, the block 246, or the block 248. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 2, the method 240 returns to the block 248 to determine a new scrambled arrangement into which to arrange the regions 120. Otherwise, if the puzzle 100 is not to be reset, the method 240 terminates.

In various embodiments, the puzzle 100 is used to advertise products, services, events, and combinations thereof. In particular embodiments, the puzzle 100 advertises various forms of entertainment such as a movie, television program, sporting event, animated feature, music video, streaming media broadcast event, DVD, video, podcast, and the like. The source image 110 and/or the reward 230 may be related to or associated with the products, services, and/or events advertised. For example, the source image 110 may be an image used to promote a movie and the reward 230 may be trailer or commercial for that movie.

Computer implemented puzzles are a form of entertainment enjoyed by many computer users. As the user solves the puzzle 100, the user may focus on the advertisement it contains. If the source image 110 includes an advertisement related to a product, service, and/or event, the user, who is focused on the source image 110, receives the information communicated by the advertisement. In some embodiments, the user may not be familiar with source image. In such embodiments, while solving the puzzle 100, the user is actively engaged in determining the nature and details of the advertisement contained in the source image. Further, in such embodiments, only after the user solves the puzzle 100, will he/she be able to view the advertisement in its entirety. Because the user is solving the puzzle 100 voluntarily, he/she will not feel his/her time is being wasted. Additionally, viewing the entire advertisement is a type of reward that will provide the user with a certain amount of user satisfaction. The delivery of advertisements in the form of a puzzle 100 places the user in a more positive and receptive frame of mind. For example, the user may be inclined to view an advertisement favorably that is provided as the reward 230 to solving the puzzle 100.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram of an exemplary computing device 300 configured to implement the puzzle 100 is provided. The computing device 300 may include a personal computer, cellular telephone, personal data assistant (PDA), a digital television, a gaming device, and the like. The computer device 300 may include a programmable central processing unit (CPU) 310 which may be implemented by any known technology, such as a microprocessor, microcontroller, application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC), digital signal processor (DSP), or the like. The CPU 310 may be integrated into an electrical circuit, such as a conventional circuit board, that supplies power to the CPU 310. The CPU 310 may include internal memory or memory 320 may be coupled thereto. The memory 320 is a computer readable medium that includes instructions or computer executable components that are executed by the CPU 310. The memory 320 may be coupled to the CPU 310 by an internal bus 330.

The memory 320 may comprise random access memory (RAM) and read-only memory (ROM). The memory 320 contains instructions and data that control the operation of the CPU 310. The memory 320 may also include a basic input/output system (BIOS), which contains the basic routines that help transfer information between elements within the computing device 300. The present invention is not limited by the specific hardware component(s) used to implement the CPU 310 or memory 320 components of the computing device 300.

Optionally, the memory 320 may include external or removable memory devices such as floppy disk drives and optical storage devices (e.g., CD-ROM, R/W CD-ROM, DVD, and the like). The computing device 300 may also include one or more I/O interfaces (not shown) such as a serial interface (e.g., RS-232, RS-432, and the like), an IEEE-488 interface, a universal serial bus (USB) interface, a parallel interface, and the like, for the communication with removable memory devices such as flash memory drives, external floppy disk drives, and the like.

The computing device 300 may also include a user interface 340 having a computing display, such as a standard computer monitor, LCD, or other visual display. The user interface 340 may also include an audio system capable of playing an audible signal. In some embodiments, a display driver may provide an interface between the CPU 310 and the user interface 340. The user interface 340 may include an input device, such as a standard keyboard, mouse, track ball, buttons, touch sensitive screen, wireless user input device, and the like. The user interface 340 allows the user to select the first unsolved region 220A and the second unsolved region 220B. The user interface 340 may also allow the user to select options or enter commands to re-scramble or automatically solve the puzzle 100. Further, the user may command the puzzle 100 to display the hint, provide instructions, or help information related to the puzzle 100. The user may also provide the number of rows “N,” the number of columns “M,” and/or the total number of regions into which to divide the source image 110. In various embodiments, the user uses the user interface 340 to select the source image 110. The user interface 340 may be coupled to the CPU 310 by an internal bus 350.

The computing device 300 may also include a network interface 360. The network interface 360 may be coupled to the CPU 310 by an internal bus 370. The network interface 360 is coupled to a network 410 (see FIG. 4) by any network connection 362 known in the art. The network interface 360 is configured to communicate with another computing device, such as a puzzle server 420 (see FIG. 4), across the network 410. The network 410 may include the internet, a WAN, a LAN, a cellular network, and the like as well as combinations thereof. Methods and devices for coupling a computing device to a network for the purposes of communicating with a second computing device also coupled to the network are well known in the art and the invention is not limited to a particular network interface, network connection, or network.

The various components of the computing device 300 may be coupled together by the internal buses 330, 350, and 370. Each of the internal buses 330, 350, and 370 may be constructed using a data bus, control bus, power bus, I/O bus, and the like.

In various embodiments, computer executable instructions 380 implementing the puzzle 100 reside in the memory 320 as illustrated in FIG. 3. Alternatively, FIG. 4 provides an exemplary system 400 configured to provide the puzzle 100 to the computing device 300 over the network 410. The puzzle server 420 may have components substantially similar to the components of the computing device 300. The instructions 380 may reside in a memory (not shown) of the puzzle server 420. The computing device 300 may request the puzzle 100 from the puzzle server 420, which may transmit all or a portion of the instructions 380 implementing the puzzle 100 to the computing device 300. For illustrative purposes, the instructions 380 implementing the puzzle 100 are depicted as residing in the memory 320 of the computing device 300. However, those of ordinary skill appreciate that alternate equivalent embodiments wherein at least a portion of the instructions 380 reside on a second computing device, such as the puzzle server 420, are within the scope of the present invention.

As is appreciated by those of ordinary skill the functionality provided by the instructions 380 may be organized into modules or other similar functional units. Further, many alternate embodiments of that organization may be implemented without departing from the present invention. Therefore, the instructions 380 will be described in terms of the functionality provided thereby.

The instructions 380 include instructions implementing a scrambled image creator 382 that includes a source image reader 382A, source image sub-divider 382B, source region scrambler 382C, and scrambled image writer 382D. The source image reader 382A locates and/or generates the source image 110. As mention previously, the source image 110 may be a preexisting image file, such as a digital photograph or other digital image, stored in memory 320. In such embodiments, the source image reader 382A need only locate and read the image file. In further embodiments, the source image reader 382A may automatically generate the source image 110 using any method known in the art.

Turning to FIG. 4, in alternate embodiments, the source image 110 may be received from the puzzle server 420. In such embodiments, the source image reader 382A (see FIG. 3) may send a request over the network 410 to the puzzle server 420 for the source image 110 and receive the source image 110 from the puzzle server 420 via the network 410. The request may be sent and the source image 110 transmitted to the computing device 300 using any communication protocol known in the art for requesting and communicating data over the network 410.

Turning to FIG. 3, in various embodiments, the source image reader 382A uses the user interface 340 to request input from the user. For example, the source image reader 382A may ask the user to identify or select the source image 110. Methods for requesting such user input are well known in the art and the present invention is not limited by the particular method selected.

The source image sub-divider 382B determines the number of rows “N,” the number of columns “M,” and/or the total number of regions into which to divide the source image 110 and subdivides the source image 110 accordingly. While source image 110 is subdivided in a grid or lattice-like manner in the figures, it is apparent to those of ordinary skill that alternate methods of dividing or tiling an image are also within the scope of the present invention. In some embodiments, the source image 110 may be divided into regions having any tessellating shape, such as triangular, hexagonal, arbitrary tessellating shapes, and the like. The source image 110 may be sub-divided into regions using any method known in the art, including using simple well-known matrix operations.

The number of rows “N,” the number of columns “M,” and/or the total number of regions into which to divide the source image 110 may be loaded by the source image sub-divider 382B from the memory 320 or provided by the user using the user interface 340. In various embodiments, the source image sub-divider 382B may prompt the user for the number of rows “N,” the number of columns “M,” and/or the total number of regions into which to divide the source image 110. Alternatively, the source image sub-divider 382B may use a random number generator to generate the number of rows “N,” the number of columns “M,” and/or the total number of regions into which to divide the source image 110.

As is apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art, under certain circumstances it may be necessary to preprocess or modify an image used as the source image 110 before subdividing it into regions 120. For example, the resolution of the image used as the source image 110 may be reduced to decrease its file size or number of pixels. The number of colors (i.e., color resolution) may be similarly reduced to reduce the image file size. The image used as the source image 110 may be resized (e.g., cropped, stretched, enlarged, etc.) to improve the results of its subdivision into regions 120. Therefore, after the puzzle 100 is solved, the scrambled image 200 may not be identical to the unmodified image used as the source image 110. Instead, the scrambled image 200 will be substantially identical to the processed or modified image. Consequently, as used herein, the term “source image” 110 refers to the modified image that was actually subdivided.

After the source image 110 is subdivided, its regions 120 are arranged in the initial arrangement 124 (see FIG. 1C). The source region scrambler 382C scrambles or rearranges the regions 120 to create the scrambled arrangement 130 (see FIG. 1A). In particular embodiments, each of the regions 120 may be identified using a unique numeric identifier. The regions 120 may be rearranged using any method known in the art including using a random number generator to randomly select each region 120 and place it in a predetermined location within the scrambled arrangement 130, using a random number generator to randomly select a location within the scrambled arrangement 130 into which to place each region 120, and the like. Alternatively, the regions 120 may be stored in an array and the contents of the array shuffled using any method known in the art.

Referring to FIG. 1A, the scrambled image writer 382D (see FIG. 3) displays the portion 140 of the source image 110 within each region 120 according to the scrambled arrangement 130 to create the scrambled image 200. In various embodiments, the scrambled image writer 382D also draws the frame 150 around each of the regions 120. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1D and 1E, the scrambled image writer 382D draws the frame 150 around only the unsolved region(s) 222. In this manner, the solved region(s) 220 are readily identifiable by the user and the solved portion(s) of the scrambled image 200 are uninterrupted by the frames 150.

Returning to FIG. 3, the instructions 380 also include a scrambled image editor 384 that includes a region selector 384A and region swapper 384B. Referring to FIG. 1D, the region selector 384A allows the user to select the first unsolved region 222A and the second unsolved region 222B. In various embodiments, the region selector 384A allows the user to select only the unsolved regions 222 and disallows selection of the solved regions 220. In some embodiments, the region selector 384A modifies the frame 150 around the first unsolved region 222A and/or the second unsolved region 222B to indicate which regions 120 the user has selected. For example, the region selector 384A may change the color, thickness, style, and/or intensity of the frame 150. In some embodiments, the region selector 384A plays an audible sound indicating a region 120 has been selected.

After the user selects the first unsolved region 222A and the second unsolved region 222B, the region swapper 384B swaps the location of the first unsolved region 222A and the location of the second unsolved region 222B within the scrambled arrangement 130. In various embodiments, the region swapper 384B displays the first unsolved region 222A and the second unsolved region 222B leaving their pre-swap locations and traveling across the scrambled image 200 to their post-swap locations.

Optionally, when the first unsolved region 222A leaves its pre-swap location, the portion 140 of the source image 110 within the region 120 in that location in the initial arrangement 124 may be displayed to the user. Similarly, when the second unsolved region 222B leaves its pre-swap location, the portion 140 of the source image 110 within the region 120 in that location in the initial arrangement 124 may be displayed to the user. This brief view of the portion(s) 140 of the source image 110 may provide a useful hint to the user. Alternatively, the vacated space left behind by the first unsolved region 222A after the first unsolved region 222A leaves its pre-swap location may be empty or filled in with a solid color. In alternate embodiments, advertisements may appear in the vacated space and/or other images related to the products, services, and/or events advertised by the puzzle 100. The vacated space left behind by the second unsolved region 222B after the second unsolved region 222B leaves its pre-swap location may be substantially similar to the vacated space left behind by the first unsolved region 222A.

The instructions 380 also include a puzzle or scrambled image monitor 386 that monitors the regions 120 of the scrambled image 200, determines when the puzzle 100 is solved, and after the puzzle 100 is solved, generates a solved event or notification. In various embodiments, the scrambled image monitor 386 simply monitors the scrambled arrangement 130 and determines when it is equivalent to the initial arrangement 124. In such embodiments, the scrambled arrangement 130 may be stored in a matrix or array and compared to a matrix or array storing the initial arrangement 124. Alternatively, the scrambled image 200 may be compared to the source image 110 and the puzzle 100 determined to be solved when the two images are equivalent. Further, alternate and perhaps more efficient methods in which only the unsolved regions 222 are monitored are also within the scope of the present invention. In such embodiments, a list of the unsolved regions 222 may be created and when an unsolved region 222 is converted to a solved region 220, the converted unsolved region 222 may be deleted from the list. In such embodiments, the puzzle 100 is solved when the list is empty.

The instructions 380 also include a reward generator or module 388 that in response to receiving the solved notification, displays the reward 230 (see FIG. 1F) to the user using the user interface 340. The reward may include an animated display. As mention above, the reward may include a multimedia file stored in the memory 320. In alternate embodiments, the reward 230 may include a streaming media file streamed from the puzzle server 420 to the computing device 300 over the network 410.

Optionally, the instructions 380 may include a hint provider 390. The hint provider 390 may identify a pair of unsolved regions 222 that if swapped would result in at least one of the unsolved regions becoming a solved region 220. The hint provider 390 may identify the pair of unsolved regions 222 by modifying the frame 150 around each of the unsolved regions 222. For example, the frame 150 may be modified to blink and thereby identify the unsolved regions 222. In various embodiments, the color, thickness, style, intensity, and the like of the frame 150 may be modified.

Optionally, the instructions 380 may include an automatic puzzle solver 392 that automatically rearranges the scrambled arrangement 130 into the initial arrangement 124 and thereby rendering the scrambled image 200 substantially identical to the source image 110. In various embodiments, such as that depicted in FIG. 2, either the automatic puzzle solver 392 or the scrambled image monitor 386 generates the solved notification and the reward module 388 displays the reward 230 (see FIG. 1F) to the user using the user interface 340.

Optionally, the instructions 380 may include a puzzle reset module 394 that calls the scrambled image creator 382 and executes at least a portion thereof. For example, in the embodiment depicted in FIG. 2, the scrambled image creator 382 calls the source region scrambler 382C to re-scramble the regions 120 of the source image 110 into a new scrambled arrangement and calls the scrambled image writer 382D to create a new scrambled image 200 so that the user can solve the puzzle 100 again. Alternatively, the puzzle reset module 394 calls the source image reader 382A to select a new source image 110 and/or source image sub-divider 382B to determine a new number of regions 120 into which to subdivide the source image 110.

Optionally, the instructions 380 may include a help module 396 that displays instructions and information, such as installation instructions, instructions informing the user how to edit the puzzle 100 using the scrambled image editor 384, system configuration information, and the like. The help module 396 may also provide information related to the products, services, and/or events advertised by the source image 110 and/or the reward 230 of the puzzle 100.

The foregoing described embodiments depict different components contained within, or connected with, different other components. It is to be understood that such depicted architectures are merely exemplary, and that in fact many other architectures can be implemented which achieve the same functionality. In a conceptual sense, any arrangement of components to achieve the same functionality is effectively “associated” such that the desired functionality is achieved. Hence, any two components herein combined to achieve a particular functionality can be seen as “associated with” each other such that the desired functionality is achieved, irrespective of architectures or intermedial components. Likewise, any two components so associated can also be viewed as being “operably connected,” or “operably coupled,” to each other to achieve the desired functionality.

While particular embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that, based upon the teachings herein, changes and modifications may be made without departing from this invention and its broader aspects and, therefore, the appended claims are to encompass within their scope all such changes and modifications as are within the true spirit and scope of this invention. Furthermore, it is to be understood that the invention is solely defined by the appended claims. It will be understood by those within the art that, in general, terms used herein, and especially in the appended claims (e.g., bodies of the appended claims) are generally intended as “open” terms (e.g., the term “including” should be interpreted as “including but not limited to,” the term “having” should be interpreted as “having at least,” the term “includes” should be interpreted as “includes but is not limited to,” etc.). It will be further understood by those within the art that if a specific number of an introduced claim recitation is intended, such an intent will be explicitly recited in the claim, and in the absence of such recitation no such intent is present. For example, as an aid to understanding, the following appended claims may contain usage of the introductory phrases “at least one” and “one or more” to introduce claim recitations. However, the use of such phrases should not be construed to imply that the introduction of a claim recitation by the indefinite articles “a” or “an” limits any particular claim containing such introduced claim recitation to inventions containing only one such recitation, even when the same claim includes the introductory phrases “one or more” or “at least one” and indefinite articles such as “a” or “an” (e.g., “a” and/or “an” should typically be interpreted to mean “at least one” or “one or more”); the same holds true for the use of definite articles used to introduce claim recitations. In addition, even if a specific number of an introduced claim recitation is explicitly recited, those skilled in the art will recognize that such recitation should typically be interpreted to mean “at least” the recited number (e.g., the bare recitation of “two recitations,” without other modifiers, typically means “at least” two recitations, or two or more recitations).

Accordingly, the invention is not limited except as by the appended claims.