Title:
System for online debate with entertainment and complex problem-solving purpose
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A computer-implemented method, apparatus and system for facilitating problem-solving of a client entity's real-life problem via an interactive game apparatus for game play by human users in a distributed computing environment, the game apparatus comprising a database of topics for selection by users for online chat or debate in real time, the client entity providing at least one topic in the database of topics, the topic provided by the client entity comprising a metaphorical relationship with the client entity's problem, the database of topics further comprising at least one comment originated by a user during a chat or debate and challenged by another user in real time, data from game play compiled for use by the client.



Inventors:
Gwaltney, David Levi (Las Cruces, NM, US)
Application Number:
12/488979
Publication Date:
12/24/2009
Filing Date:
06/22/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/42
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCCULLOCH JR, WILLIAM H
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Vesna, Rafaty C/o Rafaty Law Group Pllc N. (SUITE 600, 15851 DALLAS PARKWAY, ADDISON, TX, 75001, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A computer-implemented system comprising an interactive game apparatus for game play by human users, the system comprising at least one client entity, the client entity having a real life problem and desiring to gather information relating to the problem via data compiled from the game play, the game apparatus comprising software processes defining an Interface, a Topic Module, a Commentary Module, and a Debate Module, the Interface for allowing users to interact with the Topic Module, the Commentary Module, and the Debate Module, the Interface further comprising a server for compilation and storage of data from game play, the Topic Module comprising a database of topics for online chat or debate in real time by users, the client entity providing at least one topic for the Topic Module, the topic provided by the client entity comprising a metaphorical relationship with the client entity's problem, users selecting a topic from the Topic Module for chat or debate, inputting comments in the Commentary Module relating to the selected topic, the comments viewable in real time by other users, and optionally challenging a comment originated by another user, the originator of the challenged comment optionally accepting or declining the challenge, and the client entity accessing and reviewing the data from game play via the Interface.

2. The system per claim 1 further comprising a Wagering Module comprising software processes whereby users observing a debate in real time may input wagers on a user engaged in the debate.

3. The system per claim 1 further providing that when the originator of a challenged comment declines a challenge that is of type Put Up or Shut Up, the originator is automatically excluded from active play in the system for a period of time.

4. The system per claim 1 where the Topics Module comprises at least one comment originated by a user during a chat or debate and challenged by at least one other user.

5. A method of problem-solving relating to a client's real-life problem comprising the steps of: providing a representation of the client's problem which incorporates a metaphor, providing a system for online debate in real time on a topic selected by human users from a defined database of topics, populating the database of topics with at least one topic provided by the client, the topic comprising a representation of the client's problem incorporating a metaphor, users not directly cognizant of the existence of the client or the metaphor, updating the database of topics to include comments originated by users and challenged by other users observing a debate in real time, incentivizing users to select a topic provided by the client from the database of topics, and compiling data from game play.

6. A computer-implemented game apparatus for game play by human users and for use by a client entity having a real life problem, the client entity desiring to gather information for a possible solution to the problem via data compiled from game play, the apparatus comprising software processes defining an Interface, a Topic Module, a Commentary Module, and a Debate Module, the Interface for allowing users to interact with the Topic Module, the Commentary Module and the Debate Module, the Interface further comprising a server for compilation and storage of data from game play, the Topic Module comprising a database of topics for online chat or debate in real time by users, the client entity providing at least one topic for the Topic Module, the topic provided by the client entity comprising a metaphorical relationship with the client entity's problem, users selecting a topic from the Topic Module for chat or debate, inputting comments in the Commentary Module relating to the selected topic, the comments viewable in real time by other users, and optionally challenging a comment originated by another user, the originator of the challenged comment optionally accepting or declining the challenge, the client entity accessing and reviewing the data from game play via the Interface.

6. The system per claim 1 where players are incentivized to select a particular topic for debate from the Topic Module.



7. The system per claim 1 where the game apparatus is provided as a Web-hosted site.

8. The system per claim 1 where the game apparatus is provided as a software application licensed to the client.

9. The system per claim 1 wherein the Topic Module comprises a database of topics comprising comments originated by a user during online chat or debate and challenged by a second user.

10. The system per claim 1 where the problem relates to a market research objective of the client.

11. A system per claim 1 where users are targeted and invited to play the game based on the users' attributes.

12. A computer-implemented system for facilitating problem-solving of a client entity's real-life problem via an interactive game apparatus for game play by human users in a distributed computing environment, the game apparatus comprising a database of topics for selection by users for online chat or debate in real time, the client entity providing at least one topic in the database of topics, the topic provided by the client entity comprising a metaphorical relationship with the client entity's problem.

13. The system per claim 12 wherein the database of topics further comprises at least one comment originated by a user during a chat or debate and challenged by another user in real time, data from game play compiled for use by the client.

Description:

CLAIM OF PRIORITY

This application is a Continuation In Part Application of application Ser. No. 11/801,801 filed on May 11, 2007 which shall be expressly deemed to be incorporated in full by reference herein and whether or not it is directly referenced in the body of the specification.

System for online debate with entertainment and complex problem-solving purpose.

BACKGROUND

This invention relates to computer-implemented problem-solving systems involving human agents and more specifically relates to interactive computer games in a distributed computing environment where game play has at least a dual purpose, namely to entertain the human player and to provide useful information to a client for solving the client's real-life problem based on data derived from game play.

Distributed computing environments for solving problems are known. One of the advantages of distributed computing environments for solving problems is the existence of a large number of agents engaged at any one time in the distributed computing environment. Simulation as a problem-solving technique is also known. U.S. Pat. No. 6,931,365, for example, is directed in part to a computer-implemented method and apparatus for the creation of a synthetic environment for analysis and simulation of a global industrial system where human players are aware that they are engaging in play targeted to simulate and study actual business environments. Also known are network-based debates and virtual chat rooms such as U.S. Pat. No. 6,347,332, and published patent application Publication Number 20090063991. However, the applicant is not aware of prior art directed to a computer-implemented interactive game in a distributed computing environment where topics for chat and debate have a metaphorical relationship with a client's real life problem and where topics for future debate are dynamically generated by observers of online real time chats and debates who challenge comments originated by other players.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The applicant has invented a method, system, and game apparatus, embodied as a website for online chat and debate in real time by human players, for obtaining information to facilitate identification of solutions to a problem/problems owned by a Client(s) where the human players are not directly cognizant of the real-life problem whose solution is facilitated via play (i.e., chatting and debating online and in real-time). The applicant has reduced the disclosed invention to practice via a software application and associated website called Gauntletdown.com™ (owned by Quorum Informatics Corporation) whose features and functionalities are described herein. The term Client as used herein refers to an entity that owns (or has a stake or curiosity in) a real-life problem for which the entity undertakes to collect information for a solution using the disclosed system and game apparatus. The term Player as used herein refers to the human agent who interacts with the disclosed game apparatus and system. The terms Player, player, user, member, subscriber, commenter, and debater shall be used interchangeably herein. Thus, the key entities per the disclosed invention are a Client, a Game Developer/Publisher, human Players, and the game apparatus or the Game which also comprises and Interface allowing Players and Client to interact with the Game and providing for a server to house data collected from game play.

Game (also game apparatus) as used herein refers to a computer-implemented application that provides entertainment value to Players and also provides information helpful to a Client in solving a real life problem of the Client. Importantly, per the disclosed invention, the interactive computer-implemented Game comprises one or more metaphors which are found in at least one of the topics a player selects for online chat and/or debate. A ‘metaphor’ as the term is used herein, and as further explained below, refers to a representation of a Client's real-life problem or element or part of a Client's real-life problem, via some familiar thing (such as but not limited to an expression of an idea, concept, object, theme, issue statement, multimedia content, textual message or other message) as vehicle for the unfamiliar thing where the unfamiliar thing is the Client-owned problem. The Client may be directly involved in the creation of a metaphor linked to the Client's problem to be used in game play. Alternatively, the Client may employ metaphor development experts or outsource metaphor development experts who understand the Client's problem and industry and understand how to recast that problem as a metaphor.

The preferred embodiment of the disclosed invention is a hosted website where site visitors or site subscribers/members (players), who may access the site via browsers on their computers, engage in an online chat and/or debate in real time (with observation by other site visitors/subscribers) on player pre-selected topics where players are not aware that a selected topic has a metaphorical relationship to a Client's real life problem and the players are not cognizant that a Client is a source of any given topic presented for chat and/or debate. Thus, the game, i.e., the online chat or debate per the disclosed system, functions like a shill. A shill normally refers to a person who plays a game under false pretenses like a player hired by casinos to sit at the poker table to play poker to increase poker play and betting, thereby generally increasing interest in play at the poker table. The disclosed game delivers entertainment value to game players and utility (problem-solving) to a Client. The entertainment value lies in the fact of an online chat room or debate room where the pre-defined topics for debate and chat themselves provide entertainment value because they are defined in a way to encourage players to engage in chat and debate on the topic by virtue of the Player's interest in and knowledge of the topic.

Per an alternative embodiment, the disclosed system may be provided as a software application licensed to a client who launches and controls the application within an Intranet or other network.

Per one feature of the disclosed system, new Topics are organically and dynamically originated by players when players challenge the comments made by other players during a real time chat or debate. Software processes per the disclosed system then function to automatically populate a Topics Module (functionally a database, see below) with the challenged comments making the challenged comments available for selection by players for a future chat and/or debate.

It is noted that, among many possible uses of the disclosed embodiment, the preferred embodiment is suitable for conducting market research and collecting market research-related information in connection with a Client's products and/or services. Through the inventive online debate comprising topics with metaphorical relationship to a client problem, biases inherent in moderated focus research groups may be eliminated or minimized.

Per the disclosed preferred embodiment of the disclosed invention, there is provided system comprising human users (Players) and users comprising at least one Client, an Interface enabling users to interact with the game apparatus, a Topic Module comprising a database of Topics for debate, a Commentary Module comprising software processes for enabling users to input comments in real time as they engage in or observe other users engage in a chat in real time, a Debate Module enabling users to engage in and observe a debate in real time, and a Wagering Module comprising software processes for enabling users to input a points wager in connection with a given debate. Per a preferred embodiment of the disclosed system and game apparatus, the Client provides at least one Topic for chat or debate in the Topics Module where the topic is linked to the Client's real-life problem in a metaphorical relationship, and users are not directly informed of the existence of the Client. In the Commentary Module, users click on a comment originated by another user in an online chat to challenge the originator of the comment to a debate relating to the selected comment. The term Topic as used herein refers broadly to objects such as pre-defined subject matter categories (e.g., religion, politics, fashion, music, etc.), subcategories (e.g., Islam, fate of the GOP, Parisian women's fashion), specific issue statements/debate propositions (e.g., Are Muslim women in the Middle East less happy than Muslim women in the West? or Short skirts are sexy or The color blue means business in fashion or Metalheads use drugs), comments originated by users and challenged by other users during an active chat or debate in real time using the disclosed system, and/or representations of the preceding objects via multimedia content (e.g., YouTube™ video clip of a politician speaking). The challenger can specify the challenge to a comment to be either a simple challenge or a so-called Put Up or Shut Up Challenge™ as described herein. The originator of the comment may then accept or decline the challenge. If the challenge is declined, and the challenge is a simple challenge, Challenged Comment will be automatically captured and stored in the Topics Module and made available for selection by a user for a debate in the future. Finally, via the Wagering Module, users may input a wager on the debate in real time and during an active debate, thereby making a forward looking statement about which player is likely to “win” the active debate.

The data created in real-time chats and debates per the disclosed system are captured and may be accessed by Clients for analysis and review. For example, the data may be imported into a Game-Client Interface where the data may then be analyzed via a software tool which helps analyze unstructured data using client-defined policies or rules.

While known systems for online debates prescribe a formalistic argument base for an online debate network, the disclosed invention is based on a free-flowing debate or chat on user- pre-selected topics where issue statements/propositions for debate are provided in the following ways: (1) Topics are “seeded” into the Topics Module by Clients who provide topics/topics statements having a metaphorical relationship with the Client's problem and (2) Topics are dynamically and organically ‘generated’ by users during a real time chat or debate when users challenge comments made by other users. Initial Topics in the Topics Module at start-up or launch of the Game are provided by the Game Publisher (owner of the disclosed invention/Game). The debate process envisaged by the disclosed system is dynamic and free flowing and controlled by the debaters themselves once a debate ensues without outside influences. Thus, per the preferred embodiment, topics for debate comprise Challenged Comments originated by players during a chat or debate in real time using the disclosed system.

The client's real-life problem is embedded in at least one Topic which populates the Topics Module (functionally a database). Players select a Topic from the Topics Module and do not know that a Client has influenced or input or caused input into the statement or definition of the Topic. The metaphor can be one of several types of known or novel metaphors. Some metaphors are discussed below but the disclosure is not limited to the disclosed metaphors and other metaphors are possible and within the reach of individuals skilled in the art. The disclosed invention envisages that metaphor development experts will emerge in the marketplace comprising individuals skilled in specific subject areas, market research, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary analyses, and human behavior. The disclosed invention is suitable for any type of metaphor. While some metaphors/metaphor types may be known, the applicant is not aware of the presence/use of metaphors as per the disclosed inventive system and game apparatus. To create a metaphorical Topic, the Client may engage the services of employees, consultants, industry experts, market researchers, game developers, and/or other subject matter experts. An unlimited number of metaphors is possible and the number of metaphors is limited only by the Client's and Game Developer's level of creativity. Under the preferred embodiment, the Client, who may be a licensee, an advertiser, or sponsor, provides Topics (comprising metaphors) to the Game Publisher and the Game Publisher in turn loads the information into the Topics Module.

Per a so-called metaphor of scale, debates about very specific or narrow issues could give insight into larger versions of similar problems. So, for example, a debate about a municipality's decision to reduce the number of bus routes could offer information and insight into effects of such route cuts on larger public transportation networks such as airlines or rail.

Per a so-called metaphor of kind, debates over an issue in one kind of area could yield valuable information about a similar issue in a different kind or area. For example, a debate over observations of ant colonies could give insights into solutions for traffic jams. Similarly, a debate over water conservation or water rights could yield information to a Client who is interested in the same issue of conservation but in a different natural resource (e.g., minerals, gas). So, for example a Topic could be ostensibly directed to one industry but the Client (sponsoring) the Topic is actually acting in a different industry so the data from the debate can be extrapolated into the context of the Client's industry.

Per the so-called metaphor of common causality, a debate on one topic having causation factors similar to those of a second topic, could yield insights into the second topic. So, for example, a debate on the topic of women's fashion, and more specifically on the current relative appeal/preference for a specific length of a women's skirt, could provide a client with information on the underlying emotional factors currently driving other decisions such as investment in the stock market or investment in durable goods and real estate. Hence, for example, debate data suggesting a strong preference for long skirts could suggest a current need for security and an aversion to risk-taking.

The disclosed invention could alternatively employ the metaphor of relabelling or paradigm shifting. Per the metaphor of relabelling, the Client purposefully employs fresh language to identify a controversial, provocative Topic in a way that helps to modulate the normal, historically predictable reactions to the Topic thereby inviting a “fresh look” debate in the subject matter and thereby enabling more Players to engage in a debate on the controversial topic. Thus, for example, the Right to Abortion is a controversial topic with highly polarized viewpoints on both sides of the issue could be cast instead as a “woman's right to self-determination.” Similarly, per the metaphor of relabelling, the “War on Drugs, a label which is omnipresent and which has arguably become meaningless or lacking in specific meaning through overuse, might be recast by a Client as “Drug Education” thereby inviting a larger group of debaters willing to enter into a discussion on the controversial topic of drugs and drug control.

One of the reasons that metaphors are useful is that they help to minimize or eliminate biases, paradigms, or the need for prerequisite expertise that are inherent in human approaches to problem-solving and which inhibit the robustness of problem-solving. It is like a concept of Fresh Think. By helping to minimize or eliminate such biases, paradigms or the need for prerequisite expertise in problem-solving, the disclosed system and method enable fresh approaches to solving complex problems. An example of a problem-solving bias is the phenomenon of ‘group-think’ and the ‘not-invented here syndrome.’ Another bias is the contextual bias which exists whenever a human agent undertakes the solution of a problem within his/her area of expertise or areas of special knowledge. Within a given profession there are established norms for attacking a given problem. Thus, a professional in the field will normally adopt norms of the profession in addressing such problems. That professional may tend to utilize problem-solving norms of his/her profession when confronted with problems outside of his/her profession. The professional is more likely to adopt such norms provided he/she is able to recognize commonalities between problems of his her profession and the presented problem. The disclosed invention, via the vehicle of the metaphor in an entertaining game, exploits the natural tendency of human agents to cross-pollinate problem-solving know-how from problems within the agent's area of expertise to problems outside of the agent's area of expertise. This cross-pollination enables paradigm shifting and fresh problem-solving approaches to complex problems.

The Wagering Module of the disclosed invention, and an example of an entertainment value element, allows users who observe an ongoing Chat or Debate to make at will a forward-looking statement about the outcome (whether a Win or Loss) in connection with an active chat or debate. Wagering on debaters in turn yields a Debate Rank Metric calculable for each debater for example as follows: (Number of Wins/(Number of Wins+Number of Losses))+(Number of Wins/Total Number of Debates Participated))/2. While wagering is known, wagering in the context of the disclosed problem-solving system is not known.

The Topic Module database may for example comprise one or more objects (fields, records) as follows: (1) Topic (an identifier and/or description of the topic (e.g., a textual statement, a multimedia file, etc.), (2) Type of Topic, e.g., Challenged Comment or Other, (3) If Challenged Comment, an indicator whether the challenge was a Simple Challenge or a Put Up or Shut Up™ Challenge, (4) An indicator as to whether the Topic was previously debated, (5) If the Topic was previously debated, an indicator as to whether it resulted in a Win, Loss or a Draw, (6) If the Topic was previously debated, an indicator as to the number of individual wagers placed on the debate, and (7) for a Challenged Comment-type of Topic, whether the debate on such Challenged Comment yielded a new challenged comment (called herein a Child Challenged Comment) during the debate. The data as described above are accessible to Players and Client who access the Topics Module via the Interface which comprises a Game Play Data Compilation/Storage Server. The data give information to a Client that may be useful in yielding a solution for the Client's problem. The Client ultimately determines whether the derived information is useful to solve the Client's real-life problem. Typically, the Client uses the information to inform new Topics, thereby enabling a refinement of a Client problem solution via debates on the newly-derived Topics. The Client ultimately decides whether to implement in real life any given Game-derived or Game-suggested solution.

As previously mentioned, players may be incentivized, by a Client, the Publisher, or by another player, to select to engage in debate on a particular Topic. Incentive may be in the form of compensation via real awards, such as money and/or prizes, or “virtual awards” (i.e., player “points” resembling frequent flyer miles or similar point award systems). Thus, the choice to engage in debate on any given Topic in the Topics Module may yield more play points or other credits for the Player. Players may be “invited” to participate in a particular debate on a predetermined topic based on the players' special knowledge, skills, and experience or because a given player is recognized by the Client as a “preferred player” since his/her game-derived solutions were previously validated by the Client or because the player has accumulated a lot of game points by participating in and/or ‘winning’ previous debates in Topics of interest to the Client

DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a flowchart depicting the Select a Topic feature and functionalities per the preferred embodiment of the disclosed game apparatus for online chat and debate;

FIG. 2 is a flowchart depicting the Select Active Debate feature and functionalities per the preferred embodiment of the disclosed game apparatus for online chat and debate;

FIG. 3 is a sample Debate Gallery screenshot per the Interface of the preferred embodiment of the disclosed game apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a flowchart of the Gauntletdown.com™ application showing functionalities and features of the Select A Topic function. Once a user has selected a topic, he may observe (32), make a comment (34) or make a challenge (38). Per at Step 20 a user selects from a list of topics or topic categories. In Step 32, the user may observe an ongoing chat relating to the selected topic. If, per Step 34, the user chooses to make a comment in response to real time chat, the comment may be challenged. If it is not challenged, nothing happens. If the comment is challenged the next inquiry is whether or not the challenge is a Put Up or Shut Up Challenge™ (Step 45). If it is a simple challenge, meaning it is not a Put Up or Shut Up Challenge™, and the challenge is accepted by another user, a debate ensues that other users may observe in real time. A winner is declared at Step 60 as the debate is allowed to proceed naturally. The winning player account is updated with new points earned from participating in the debate. Similarly, if a user makes a challenge (step 38), the challenge is characterized as one of a Simple Challenge or a Put Up or Shut Up Challenge™, and so on as described in Step 45 above.

FIG. 2 is a flowchart of the Gauntletdown.com™ application showing functionalities and features of the Select Active Debate function per the preferred embodiment of the disclosed game apparatus for online chat and debate. A user who opts to Select Active Debate (30), may observe (32) the selected active debate in real time in Debate Gallery window, originate a comment (34) in connection with his/her observation of the selected active debate, wager (36) on one of the debaters in the selected active debate, or challenge (36) a comment originated by another observer of the selected active debate.

Underlying the disclosed system as flowcharted in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 is the Client's problem-definition step whereby a suitable metaphor is created to represent the Client's problem and the problem, comprising the metaphorical object, is then delivered for input into the Topics Module.

FIG. 3 is a sample Debate Gallery screenshot per the disclosed Interface where observers of an active online debate may input comments viewable in the left column of the sample screen shot, while a real time debate unfolds and is viewable in the right column of the screen shot, with a prompt on the bottom right portion of the sample screen shot for inviting an observer of the debate to input a wager on one of the debaters.