Title:
GAME WITH COLLECTION IN ADVANCE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Special items can be collected in advance, and only used on a special day. For example, the items can be rockets, they can only be used on Webkinz day. When the special day arrives, the countdown icon associated with the collection that has been made is changed to a launch icon. The user can drag and drop the items into order, and then they are launched in that order.



Inventors:
Braund, Stephen (Woodbridge, CA)
Application Number:
13/086015
Publication Date:
10/13/2011
Filing Date:
04/13/2011
Assignee:
GANZ (Woodbridge, CA)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Other References:
Super Mario Bros. 3 Manual, Nintendo, Release Date 10/23/1988,
Primary Examiner:
LEICHLITER, CHASE E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Pearne & Gordon LLP (1801 East 9th Street Suite 1200 Cleveland OH 44114-3108)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method, comprising: operating a virtual world, in which users can control characters in the virtual world and obtain items in the virtual world; first providing an ability for a user to collect a first special item of a plurality of special items in the virtual world, where said first special item is one that cannot be used at a time when the first special item is collected, and can only be used during a special, prescribed period that is in the future relative to the time when the first special item was collected; responsive to the user collecting said first special item, storing information indicating said first special item in a user account associated with the user in a way that shows the user that the first special item has been collected; second providing an ability to collect other special items of the plurality of special items that are different than said first special item; storing said other special items in the user account, and showing the user that the other special items have been collected, but not allowing said items to be used at a time when the other special items are collected; and during said special period, providing an interface to allow said plurality of items to be used during said special period.

2. A method as in claim 1, further comprising showing a first interface part indicating a countdown to said special period prior to arrival of said special period, and a second interface part being shown during said special period, said second interface part allowing using said first special item and said other special items.

3. A method as in claim 2, wherein said plurality of special items are virtual rockets, and said second interface part is an interface part to display a simulated launch said virtual rockets.

4. A method as in claim 3, wherein said showing shows said plurality of special items on a special user interface that has an outer shape that is the shape of a rocket.

5. A method as in claim 1, wherein said items are of a specified type, and wherein said showing shows said items on a special user interface that has an outer shape that is in the shape of said specified type of item.

6. A method as in claim 5, further comprising a separate user interface which allows a user to control an order of said items.

7. A method as in claim 6, wherein said items are used in the order set within said special user interface.

8. A Method as in claim 1, wherein said first providing and said second providing prevents the user from collecting any more of said special items for a specified period of time after they have collected one of the special items.

9. A method as in claim 1, wherein there are a number of said special items, and further comprising awarding the user with a special reward that is usable in the virtual world when all of said number of special items have been collected by the user.

10. A method as in claim 1, wherein the special period is a designated day.

11. A method as in claim 1, wherein said first providing and second providing are performed randomly.

12. A method, comprising: from a client computer, interacting with operating a virtual world, in which users can control characters in the virtual world and obtain items in the virtual world; collecting a first special item of a plurality of special items in the virtual world, where said first special item is one that cannot be used at a time when the first special item is collected, and can only be used during a special, prescribed period that is in the future relative to the time when the first special item was collected; showing information to a user who has collected said special item, said information indicating said first special item in a user account associated with the user in a way that shows the user that the first special item has been collected; collecting other special items of the plurality of special items that are different than said first special item; showing said user that the other special items have been collected, but not allowing said items to be used at a time when the other special items are collected; and during said special period subsequent to said time when the items are collected, providing an interface to allow said plurality of items to be used during said special period.

13. A method as in claim 12, further comprising viewing a first interface part on said client computer, indicating a countdown to said special period prior to said special period, and also viewing a second interface part being shown during said special period, said second interface part allowing using said first special item and said other special items.

14. A method as in claim 12, wherein said plurality of special items are virtual rockets, and said second interface part is an interface part to display a simulated launch said virtual rockets.

15. A method as in claim 14, wherein said showing shows said plurality of special items on a special user interface that has an outer shape that is the shape of a rocket.

16. A method as in claim 14, wherein said items are of a specified type, and wherein said showing shows said items on a special user interface that has an outer shape that is in the shape of said specified type of item.

17. A method as in claim 12, wherein said first providing and said second providing comprises providing at random.

18. A method as in claim 17, wherein said first and second providing prevents the user from collecting any more of said special items for a specified period of time after they have collected one of the special items.

19. A method as in claim 12, wherein the special period is a designated day.

20. A computer system comprising: a client computer, running software that operates a virtual world using inputs received over a network , said client computer allowing users to control characters in the virtual world and obtain items in the virtual world, said client computer first providing an ability for a user to collect a first special item of a plurality of special items in the virtual world, where said first special item is one that cannot be used at a time when the first special item is collected, and can only be used during a special, prescribed period that is in the future relative to the time when the first special item was collected; responsive to the user collecting said first special item, said client computer displaying information indicating said first special item in a user account associated with the user in a way that shows the user that the first special item has been collected; said client computer second providing an ability to collect other special items of the plurality of special items that are different than said first special item; responsive to the user collecting said second special item, said client computer displaying said other special items, but not allowing said items to be used at a time when the other special items are collected; and during said special period, said client computer allowing to be used during said special period.

21. A system as in claim 20, wherein said client computer further shows a first interface part indicating a countdown to said special period prior to arrival of said special period, and a second interface part being shown during said special period, said second interface part allowing using said first special item and said other special items.

22. A system as in claim 21, wherein said plurality of special items are virtual rockets, and said second interface part is an interface part to display a simulated launch said virtual rockets.

23. A system as in claim 22, wherein said wherein said client computer shows said plurality of special items on a special user interface that has an outer shape that is the shape of a rocket.

24. A system as in claim 21, wherein said items are of a specified type, and wherein said wherein said client computer shows said items on a special user interface that has an outer shape that is in the shape of said specified type of item.

25. A system as in claim 24, wherein said client computer further provides a separate user interface which allows a user to control an order of said items.

26. A system as in claim 25, wherein said items are used in the order set within said special user interface.

27. A System as in claim 21, wherein said client computer further prevents the user from collecting any more of said special items for a specified period of time after they have collected one of the special items.

28. A system as in claim 21, wherein the special period is a designated day.

29. A system as in claim 21, wherein said special items are performed randomly.

Description:

This application claims priority from provisional application No. 61/323,589, filed Apr. 13, 2010, the entire contents of which are herewith incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND

U.S. Pat. No. 7,421,569, filed Dec. 30, 2004 describes a system of interacting with a virtual representation of a real world product. According to this system, a user can buy a toy which is associated with a special code. The toy exists in the real world, and the code forms a key to the virtual world. The user enters the code on a website and enters the virtual world.

The virtual world provides activities and views with which the user can interact. The virtual world, as part of the interaction, provides a virtual replica of the actual toy. Users can carry out various activities on the website using their virtual version of the toy. For example, the user can form a house with rooms, furniture, things, clothing, and other things. The user can also carry out activities to earn cash, and purchase virtual items using that cash.

SUMMARY

The present application describes operating a virtual world, in which users can control characters in the virtual world and obtain items in the virtual world, providing items which can be collected in advance, at random. While the items described herein are fireworks, they are any items that can be used in a virtual world of the type described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,425,169, or any suitable virtual world or computer game. Moreover, while this application describes that the items can be collected and then later used on the “Webkinz® Day” it should be understood that these items can be used at any time in the future. According to an embodiment, however, the items cannot be used at the time collected.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 illustrates a virtual clubhouse view with a special character;

FIG. 2 shows the clubhouse view showing a message indicating that the special character has provided a special item;

FIG. 3 shows the rocket collection interface;

FIG. 4 shows the editing rocket order interface;

FIG. 5 shows the users virtual room with an animated reward for collecting all of the rocket;

FIG. 6 shows how the rockets can be launched within the virtual world;

FIG. 7 shows the simulated clubhouse, and a message shown for collecting all of the rockets.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

An embodiment describes for adding a fun additional activity to the Clubhouse and Room for a special event, which the inventor calls “Webkinz® Day”.

In the embodiment, a new character named “Goober” is randomly programmed by the server computer to appear in the “Clubhouse” within Webkinz World® as it appears on one or multiple client computers operated by users and connected via the internet to the server computer. The Goober character is a non-player character (NPC) that is controlled by the server computer and can interact with the user-controlled characters or avatars.

FIG. 1 shows the clubhouse 100, which is a virtual room or chatroom in which items appear. The Goober character 110 can be selected, to give out “Goobatomic Rockets” 120 to those who click on him. On days other than Webkinz® Day, for example for one week leading up to Webkinz® Day, users can only collect the rockets, but the rockets cannot be used. Alternatively, a special time period other than a day could be used, such as a designated hour. FIG. 2 shows how when the user gets an item, an item graphic 200 is displayed, indicating the user has received an item.

Once Webkinz® Day arrives, members are able to launch their rockets in and view a grand fireworks display. However, until that special day, the users can only collect the rockets and keep them in their inventory.

More generally, however, this application describes the use of providing items which can be collected in advance, at random. While the particular items described herein are rockets, they could be any items that can be used in a virtual world or computer game, for example of the type described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,425,169. Moreover, while this application describes that the items can be collected and then later used on the “Webkinz® Day” it should be understood that these items can be used at any time in the future, such as some other designated day. According to an embodiment, however, the items cannot be used at the time they are collected.

The rocket collection icon appears in both the user's personal room 500, as shown in FIG. 5, where the rocket icon is shown as 505, and also in Clubhouse rooms as in FIG. 1, during the time period scheduled by an administrator based on commands entered on the server computer.

Once Webkinz® Day is over, the rocket icon is removed, and users will no longer be able to access the rockets. Thus, the items are collected in advance, and can only be used on the one special day.

In one embodiment every instance of every Clubhouse room is programmed to check at a set interval for the random appearance of the Goober character 110, which appear according to the Goober Clubhouse Appearance Variables described herein. Alternatively, only certain Clubhouse rooms could be programmed for appearances of the Goober character. When Goober does appear, his appearance in a room should last for only a limited time, e.g., 60 seconds. When Goober appears and disappears he will say a random phrase in a speech bubble, e.g.: “Atomicolicious!”, “Who wants a Goobatomic Rocket?”, “Is everyone excited about Webkinz Day this year?”, “I made something special this year for Webkinz Day!”, “My experiments have created something colorful!”, or “I have something fun for you!”

When Goober disappears, his disappearance speech bubble is triggered just before disappearance, to make him say another phrase, e.g.: “Time to go now . . . ”, “I need to get back to the lab . . . ”, “Time for some more colorful experiments . . . ”, “Science never sleeps . . . But I do . . . ”, “See you again soon . . . ”, or “Hope I see you again! Keep collecting!”

Goober can move randomly around the room. Moreover, Goober can appear in multiple instances of the same room at the same time, or in different room types at the same time.

The user receives Rockets for their collection by clicking Goober during one of his random appearances. Goober is no longer selectable for that appearance after the disappearance speech bubble has been displayed. In an embodiment, the user can only receive one rocket per Goober appearance. Also, once the user receives a Rocket, there will be a cooldown period (adjustable value) during which the user cannot receive more Rockets to prevent people from just hanging out in the Clubhouse and farming Rockets or from jumping between rooms look for Goober.

A variety of different rocket designs will be available. The particular rocket awarded to the user is selected randomly from a pooled group and based on a user's current collection. This helps prevent the user from getting duplicate rockets. Rockets that the user gets are in essence a collection of rockets. Once the user's rocket collection is complete, that is he/she has all of the rocket designs available, the user can still click on Goober for future appearances and receive duplicates completely randomly at this point. Even after the collection is complete, however, the cooldown period described above remains in effect and the user can still only receive one rocket per Goober appearance.

If the user clicks on Goober during this cool-down period, they he/she is shown a message reminding the user that he/she will need to wait.

According to an embodiment, the rockets do not appear in the user's dock 700 (FIG. 7) that shows the user's inventory of other items, but instead are only tracked within the rocket collection interface 300. FIG. 3 shows the rocket collection interface 300, in which the rockets 305 are collected and stored.

The rocket collection interface 300 has 2 different views. The collection view as shown in FIG. 3 is the default upon opening and only shows the items collected in rocket form (i.e. the items look like rockets), such as the rockets 305. Any duplicates represented as “x<#>” (which only appears if there are duplicates of a Rocket). For example, rocket 305 shows the icon “x3” at 310, indicating that the user has three of those rockets. Any rockets that the user has not yet collected will be shown as an empty space, which may for example be represented by a silhouette or grayed-out picture of the missing rocket (not shown).

In one embodiment, the rocket collection interface 300 is itself in the shape of a rocket, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. The two wings of the rocket respectively include an edit button 320, and a close button 330. Clicking the Edit button 320 switches to the launch editing interface 400 shown in FIG. 4, where the user can edit the order in which their rockets will be launched, and thus dynamically change their fireworks animation sequence. This view also has a click-and-drag version of the collection, but in a “rocket effect icon” form (but still with the same duplicates counter).

If the user opens their Rocket collection interface 300 in a Clubhouse room, their virtual pet will have a fireworks icon appear above their head to show other users that the user is viewing that rather than the room.

A member visiting another person's room in a multi-use mode cannot trigger their host's Rocket collection interface 300.

A countdown timer 315 on the Rocket collection interface 300 counts down to Webkinz® Day (FIG. 3). At the start of Webkinz® Day, the countdown timer 315 is replaced by a LAUNCH! button 400 (FIG. 4). For example, when the site returns from overnight maintenance on Webkinz® Day, the LAUNCH! button shown as 400 in FIG. 4 will appear in place of the countdown timer 315.

The launch editing interface 405 for editing the rocket launching sequence features, on one side, a collected rocket panel 410 including the rocket effect icons for the collected rockets (including duplicates counter). Some of these spaces may be filled, and there may also for example be one or more empty slots shown as 411. On the other side, an organization panel 420 has twenty rows of five target squares representing the launch order. The user can drag and drop items from the collected rockets panel 410 to the organization panel 420.

If the user does not have any collected rockets, the slots appear empty, with only a silhouette of the missing icon shape. Any collected duplicates appear with an added “x<#>” next to it.

The user is free to click and drag any collected Rocket icon to an open target square somewhere in the launch order. Available target squares highlight when an icon is dragged over top as shown in 412.

Once an icon is clicked and dragged, the duplicate counter for that icon is reduced by 1, or if it is the only rocket effect icon of that type remaining, the slot appears empty. Note, in the embodiment where all rockets must be received before any duplicates will be received, this is how there could be an empty slot in the same collected rocket panel 41 along with duplicate rockets.

If the user does not successfully drop the dragged rocket icon to a highlighted square it will snap back to its original position on the collection side, or increase the duplicates counter back to its original count.

Rocket icons already positioned on the launch order can also be selected and dragged either to another available target square in the organization panel 420, or back to the collected rocket panel 410 (by dragging it anywhere over to the appropriate panel).

In one embodiment, for reduce network traffic and increased speed, editing of launch order is done entirely on the client computer. However, the changes made are saved on the server in a database when the user closes the interface using the “X” button or when he/she clicks the “BACK” button, or the “LAUNCH!” button to view their editing fireworks sequence on Webkinz® Day.

On Webkinz® Day, the user will be able to click on their active LAUNCH! button to view a dynamic fireworks sequence as shown in FIG. 6. FIG. 6 shows how the animation sequence appears in a triggered window layered on top of their current screen, deactivating all other interfaces underneath. The user is able to close the window at any time during the sequence.

The sequence plays out by triggering up to five firework effects at a time, which correspond to the rocket effect icons placed in each row of five target squares at a time, first with the five icons appearing on the “launcher” 600, then having them “fired”, then finally seeing them explode in the sky shown for example as 610. The next row of up to five rocket effect icons is cued up and the sequence continues until all of the rows are launched.

All fireworks organized in the same row explode at the same time in the sky. For example, FIG. 6 shows how multiple fireworks are exploding at the same time. The position of the explosion corresponds directly to the rocket effect icon position in the launcher/editor (e.g., far right icon creates an explosion on the far right of the sky, the middle icon in the launcher 600 explodes in the center of the sky, etc.). Blank or empty slots, as shown for example at 615, do not fire and do not lead to an explosion in that part of the sky for that row.

The sequence automatically proceeds to the final standard message when there are no more rows with Rocket icons added. The standard ending fireworks message “HAPPY 5TH WEBKINZ DAY!” fireworks message is automatically added to the end of the sequence.

If the user has not collected any Rockets, he/she will only see the standard ending fireworks message when the user clicks the LAUNCH! button.

A counter 620 under the launcher 600 dynamically shows which row is currently ready to be fired, along with the total number of rows for the created sequence (not including the standard ending message).

To replay the sequence the user can close the window and click the LAUNCH! button in the edit interface again.

The user is free during Webkinz® Day to change their rocket launch order (based on their collection) as often as the user wishes and view the different results each time the user accesses the Goobatomic Rocket Collection.

According to one embodiment, there can be some number of unique rockets such as 10 unique rockets. When the user has completed collecting all of the 10 unique types, the system awards the user the grand prize to his/her dock as shown at 700.

This provides a special animated reward for collecting all the rockets, see for example the reward acknowledgment shown in 700 in FIG. 7, and the animated reward 500 shown in FIG. 5.

The server computer can enable viewing a Fireworks Sequence from either the user's own personal room or a Clubhouse room. When the user selects the LAUNCH! button, a view of the night sky appears in a.triggered window layered on top of the current window (deactivating all other interfaces underneath). If the user is in a Clubhouse room, a fireworks icon appears above their pet's head. The first row of added rocket effect icons appear on the launcher 600. The row counter 620 updates. Animated muzzle flashes go off above the icons. The resulting fireworks explode in the sky. Then the next row of icons appear on the launcher 600. The row counter 620 updates. The animated muzzle flashes go off again. The resulting fireworks go off in the sky again. This continues until there are no more rows of rocket effect icons. The animated muzzle flashes go off one more time. The standard ending fireworks message “HAPPY 5TH WEBKINZ DAY!” explodes in the sky. The message fades out. The user clicks the “X” close button to exit.

An admin tool on the server is used to set the appearance dates for the rocket collection icon for the week leading up to (and including) Webkinz® Day, and for setting the appearance variables for Goober's Clubhouse appearances. These can be as in table 1 below. This admin tool should be expandable to allow for new Rocket collections (with entirely new Rocket designs) for future Webkinz® Day events.

Goober Clubhouse Appearance Variables
APPEARANCE CHANGE OF COOL-DOWN
DATECHECKAPPEARANCEPERIOD
Friday, April 23, Every 30%30 minutes
Saturday, April 24 & 20 minutes
Sunday, Apri1 25
Monday, April 26 &Every 40%20 minutes
Tuesday, April 2718 minutes
Wednesday, April 28Every 50%10 minutes
15 minutes
Thursday, April 29 Every 70% 5 minutes
(Webkinz Day)10 minutes
Note
these are example dates

Table 1

More generally, however, this application describes the use of providing items which can be collected in advance, at random. While the items described herein are fireworks, they are any items that can be used in a virtual world of the type described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,425,169. Moreover, while this application describes that the items can be collected and then later used on the “Webkinz® Day” it should be understood that these items can be used at for other holidays or special days. According to an embodiment, however, the items cannot be used at the time collected.

Another embodiment, for example, allows collection prior to Halloween, and using the items as part of a Halloween Treat-or-Treat event. Any other holiday can have items collected and later used in a similar way. The items which are collected may be related to the specific holiday for which they are collected. For example, the above describes collecting fireworks which can be done for a number of different holidays. In addition, however, for Halloween, the items could be related to a Halloween character. For example, the items could be animated to create a show on Halloween, but can be collected in advance before Halloween. In this embodiment, the collection interface 300 might be in the shape the outer shape of a witch, rather than in the outer shape of a rocket. Moreover, instead of a rocket, in general, these could be fireworks or any other type of item. The items that are collected may be themed for a future holiday or event, and are collected in advance, then only usable on the specified day.

Although only a few embodiments have been disclosed in detail above, other embodiments are possible and the inventors intend these to be encompassed within this specification. The specification describes specific examples to accomplish a more general goal that may be accomplished in another way. This disclosure is intended to be exemplary, and the claims are intended to cover any modification or alternative which might be predictable to a person having ordinary skill in the art. For example as described above, other holidays can be celebrated in a similar way.

Those of skill would further appreciate that the various illustrative logical blocks, modules, circuits, and algorithm steps described in connection with the embodiments disclosed herein may be implemented as electronic hardware, computer software, or combinations of both. To clearly illustrate this interchangeability of hardware and software, various illustrative components, blocks, modules, circuits, and steps have been described above generally in terms of their functionality. Whether such functionality is implemented as hardware or software depends upon the particular application and design constraints imposed on the overall system. Skilled artisans may implement the described functionality in varying ways for each particular application, but such implementation decisions should not be interpreted as causing a departure from the scope of the exemplary embodiments of the invention.

The various illustrative logical blocks, modules, and circuits described in connection with the embodiments disclosed herein, may be implemented or performed with a general purpose processor, a Digital Signal Processor (DSP), an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) or other programmable logic device, discrete gate or transistor logic, discrete hardware components, or any combination thereof designed to perform the functions described herein. A general purpose processor may be a microprocessor, but in the alternative, the processor may be any conventional processor, controller, microcontroller, or state machine. The processor can be part of a computer system that also has a user interface port that communicates with a user interface, and which receives commands entered by a user, has at least one memory (e.g., hard drive or other comparable storage, and random access memory) that stores electronic information including a program that operates under control of the processor and with communication via the user interface port, and a video output that produces its output via any kind of video output format, e.g., VGA, DVI, HDMI, displayport, or any other form.

When operated on a computer, the computer may include a processor that operates to accept user commands, execute instructions and produce output based on those instructions. The processor is preferably connected to a communication bus. The communication bus may include a data channel for facilitating information transfer between storage and other peripheral components of the computer system. The communication bus further may provide a set of signals used for communication with the processor, including a data bus, address bus, and/or control bus.

The communication bus may comprise any standard or non-standard bus architecture such as, for example, bus architectures compliant with industry standard architecture (“ISA”), extended industry standard architecture (“EISA”), Micro Channel Architecture (“MCA”), peripheral component interconnect (“PCI”) local bus, or any old or new standard promulgated by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (“IEEE”) including IEEE 488 general-purpose interface bus (“GPIB”), and the like.

A computer system used according to the present application preferably includes a main memory and may also include a secondary memory. The main memory provides storage of instructions and data for programs executing on the processor. The main memory is typically semiconductor-based memory such as dynamic random access memory (“DRAM”) and/or static random access memory (“SRAM”). The secondary memory may optionally include a hard disk drive and/or a solid state memory and/or removable storage drive for example an external hard drive, thumb drive, a digital versatile disc (“DVD”) drive, etc.

At least one possible storage medium is preferably a computer readable medium having stored thereon computer executable code (i.e., software) and/or data thereon in a non-transitory form. The computer software or data stored on the removable storage medium is read into the computer system as electrical communication signals.

The computer system may also include a communication interface. The communication interface allows' software and data to be transferred between computer system and external devices (e.g. printers), networks, or information sources. For example, computer software or executable code may be transferred to the computer to allow the computer to carry out the functions and operations described herein. The computer system can be a network-connected server with a communication interface. The communication interface may be a wired network card, or a Wireless, e.g., Wifi network card.

Software and data transferred via the communication interface are generally in the form of electrical communication signals.

Computer executable code (i.e., computer programs or software) are stored in the memory and/or received via communication interface and executed as received. The code can be compiled code or interpreted code or website code, or any other kind of code.

A “computer readable medium” can be any media used to provide computer executable code (e.g., software and computer programs and website pages), e.g., hard drive, USB drive or other. The software, when executed by the processor, preferably causes the processor to perform the inventive features and functions previously described herein.

A processor may also be implemented as a combination of computing devices, e.g., a combination of a DSP and a microprocessor, a plurality of microprocessors, one or more microprocessors in conjunction with a DSP core, or any other such configuration. These devices may also be used to select values for devices as described herein.

The steps of a method or algorithm described in connection with the embodiments disclosed herein may be embodied directly in hardware, in a software module executed by a processor, or in a combination of the two. A software module may reside in Random Access Memory (RAM), flash memory, Read Only Memory (ROM), Electrically Programmable ROM (EPROM), Electrically Erasable Programmable ROM (EEPROM), registers, hard disk, a removable disk, a CD-ROM, or any other form of storage medium known in the art. An exemplary storage medium is coupled to the processor such that the processor can read information from, and write information to, the storage medium. In the alternative, the storage medium may be integral to the processor. The processor and the storage medium may reside in an ASIC. The ASIC may reside in a user terminal. In the alternative, the processor and the storage medium may reside as discrete components in a user terminal.

In one or more exemplary embodiments, the functions described may be implemented in hardware, software, firmware, or any combination thereof. If implemented in software, the functions may be stored on or transmitted over as one or more instructions or code on a computer-readable medium. Computer-readable media includes both computer storage media and communication media including any medium that facilitates transfer of a computer program from one place to another. A storage media may be any available media that can be accessed by a computer. By way of example, and not limitation, such computer-readable media can comprise RAM, ROM, EEPROM, CD-ROM or other optical disk storage, magnetic disk storage or other magnetic storage devices, or any other medium that can be used to carry or store desired program code in the form of instructions or data structures and that can be accessed by a computer. The memory storage can also be rotating magnetic hard disk drives, optical disk drives, or flash memory based storage drives or other such solid state, magnetic, or optical storage devices. Also, any connection is properly termed a computer-readable medium. For example, if the software is transmitted from a website, server, or other remote source using a coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, twisted pair, digital subscriber line (DSL), or wireless technologies such as infrared, radio, and microwave, then the coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, twisted pair, DSL, or wireless technologies such as infrared, radio, and microwave are included in the definition of medium. Disk and disc, as used herein, includes compact disc (CD), laser disc, optical disc, digital versatile disc (DVD), floppy disk and blu-ray disc where disks usually reproduce data magnetically, while discs reproduce data optically with lasers. Combinations of the above should also be included within the scope of computer-readable media. The computer readable media can be an article comprising a machine-readable non-transitory tangible medium embodying information indicative of instructions that when performed by one or more machines result in computer implemented operations comprising the actions described throughout this specification.

Operations as described herein can be carried out on or over a website. The website can be operated on a server computer, or operated locally, e.g., by being downloaded to the client computer, or operated via a server farm. The website can be accessed over a mobile phone or a PDA, or on any other client. The website can use HTML code in any form, e.g., MHTML, or XML, and via any form such as cascading style sheets (“CSS”) or other.

Also, the inventors intend that only those claims which use the words “means for” are intended to be interpreted under 35 USC 112, sixth paragraph. Moreover, no limitations from the specification are intended to be read into any claims, unless those limitations are expressly included in the claims. The computers described herein may be any kind of computer, either general purpose, or some specific purpose computer such as a workstation. The programs may be written in C, or Java, Brew or any other programming language. The programs may be resident on a storage medium, e.g., magnetic or optical, e.g. the computer hard drive, a removable disk or media such as a memory stick or SD media, or other removable medium. The programs may also be run over a network, for example, with a server or other machine sending signals to the local machine, which allows the local machine to carry out the operations described herein.

Where a specific numerical value is mentioned herein, it should be considered that the value may be increased or decreased by 20%, while still staying within the teachings of the present application, unless some different range is specifically mentioned. Where a specified logical sense is used, the opposite logical sense is also intended to be encompassed.

The previous description of the disclosed exemplary embodiments is provided to enable any person skilled in the art to make or use the present invention. Various modifications to these exemplary embodiments will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the generic principles defined herein may be applied to other embodiments without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. Thus, the present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiments shown herein but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and novel features disclosed herein.