Patent application title: Maintaining Advertisements
Glen Van Datta (San Diego, CA, US)
Steven Wagner (Alpine, CA, US)
Gary M. Zalewski (Oakland, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AG06Q3000FI
Publication date: 2011-05-26
Patent application number: 20110125582
A list of advertisements, products, or services for which an impression
is generated during the course of a digital environment session (e.g., a
video game) may be imported to a list that may be viewed at the
conclusion of the digital session. The user may then visit advertiser web
sites and/or view/purchase products at their leisure instead of while
immersed in the digital experience. Similarly, a list of all
advertisements through which an interaction occurred during the course of
a video game experience (e.g., physical encounter, purchase of an in-game
product, utilizing a sponsored product) may be imported to a list that
may be viewed at the conclusion of a game session. The user may then
visit the advertiser web sites and/or view/purchase products at their
leisure instead of while immersed in the digital environment.
1. A method for generating an advertisement reference list, the method
comprising to: receiving advertisement data from an advertisement source;
displaying an advertisement on a computing device based on the received
advertisement data; confirming user interaction with the displayed
advertisement, the confirmation corresponding to a selection of the
displayed advertisement by a user of the computing device; adding an
advertisement identifier corresponding to the advertisement to a
reference list associated with the user in response to the confirmation
of the user interaction; and displaying the reference list including the
advertisement identifier on the computing device.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing an indication to the user of the addition of the advertisement identifier to the reference list.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein displaying the reference list includes displaying a plurality of advertisement identifiers in a sequence based on an order in which the user interacted with a displayed associated advertisement, the interaction of corresponding to a selection of the displayed associated advertisement by the user of the computing device.
4. The method of claim 3, wherein displaying the reference list includes displaying the plurality of advertisement identifiers in the sequence further based on at least one category associated with each of the plurality of advertisement identifiers.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein displaying the reference list includes displaying additional advertisement data about a product or service referenced in the advertisement.
6. The method of claim 5, wherein the displaying the additional advertisement data includes displaying data added by the user of the computing device.
7. The method of claim 5, wherein displaying the additional advertisement data includes displaying feedback by other users regarding the product or service referenced in the advertisement.
8. The method of claim 5, further comprising receiving user interaction with the displayed reference list, the user interaction corresponding to a request to commence a commercial transaction to obtain the product or service referenced in the advertisement.
9. The method of claim 5, further comprising receiving user interaction with the displayed reference list, the user interaction corresponding to a request to obtain additional advertisement data regarding the product or service referenced in the advertisement.
10. The method of claim 9, further comprising requesting the additional advertisement data from the advertisement source in response to the user interaction with the displayed reference list.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This application is a continuation and claims the priority benefit of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/535,370 filed Sep. 26, 2006 and entitled "Population of an Advertisement Reference List" which claims the priority benefit of U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/798,240 filed May 5, 2006 and entitled "Population of an Advertisement Reference List"; this application is also a continuation-in-part and claims the priority benefit of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/241,229 filed Sep. 30, 2005 and entitled "Advertising Impression Determination," the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
 This application is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/780,995 for an "In-Contents Advertising Method, In-Contents Advertising Server, and Program-Transferring Medium for Realizing In-Contents Advertising," the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 This invention relates generally to advertisements in a digital medium. More specifically, this invention relates to generating lists of products, services and/or advertisers that may be of interest to a particular consumer, those products or services or an advertisement related thereto having been encountered in a digital medium, such as an interactive video game.
 2. Description of the Related Art
 At one time, advertisements were limited to handbills and word-of-mouth. As new mediums for communication developed, so did opportunities and means for advertising. For example, with the advent of newspapers and magazines, advertisements soon began to fill the pages alongside the daily or weekly news.
 Such advertising generally proved to be a benefit to all parties involved. Advertisers were able to tout their latest products or services (or those of their clientele); newspapers and magazines were able to offset the costs of printing through the sale of advertising space; and consumers were able to learn of new products of interest through their interaction with these various forms of media. This beneficial relationship amongst the advertiser, media, and consumer held true with regard to the arrival of radio and television.
 Advertisers and media outlets are now, however, finding themselves challenged by the rise of digital media, especially with regard to video games and portable digital media devices. As the advertising power of older mediums decreases due to the rise of video games and portable digital media as forms of entertainment, advertising buys for product and service offerings are generally seen by less people as a whole and, demographically, less of the power-buying public. As such, there has become an increased effort to expand advertising to digital media.
 Despite the ability to introduce advertising content into, for example, a video game environment, the user may often be unable to view the advertisement or to process and comprehend the information conveyed by that advertisement. For example, in a racing game, a user might pass a billboard advertising a particular product or service. Due to the speed of the user's vehicle in the video game environment and the need of the user to focus on maintaining control of their vehicle and competing with other players, the user may be unable to observe all the aspects of the advertisement, especially if the advertisement conveys some degree of detail or `fine print.`
 Similarly, in a role-playing game, a user might guide a game character through an urban environment while fighting an enemy character. As a result of the user attempting to keep their game character alive, it may be unlikely for the user to have the opportunity to pay close attention to any advertising that might appear on billboards or in other locales in the game environment.
 Notwithstanding the possible inability of the user to observe these advertisements due to other priorities (e.g., in game competition or watching a movie on DVD), many users may have a genuine interest in a product or service being advertised. Similarly, advertisers may have spent considerable sums of money for the placement of static or dynamic advertisement in a particular game environment. Accordingly, there is a need for users to be able to observe advertisements and/or products and services related to those advertisements that appear in a digital environment at a time more conducive to observation whereby user attention to advertisements does not interrupt or overtly hinder the core video game or digital media experience.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 An embodiment of the present invention provides a method for generating an advertisement list based on user impressions. Through the method, an advertisement may be displayed in a digital environment. A subsequent confirmation may occur as to whether an impression of that advertisement has occurred. Based on that impression, advertisement information may be added to a reference list. A user may then peruse the reference list at their own convenience and outside of in-game or other interactions (e.g., watching a movie). The reference list may provide the user with the means to link to a more detailed source of information about the product and/or an opportunity to purchase the product.
 An additional embodiment of the invention provides a method for generating an advertisement list based on user interactions with an advertisement, product or service. Through this method, an advertisement may be displayed in a digital environment. A subsequent confirmation may be made as to whether a user has somehow interacted with that advertisement, product, or service through direct or indirect activity. Based on that interaction, information may be added to a reference list. A user may then peruse the reference list at their own convenience and outside of in-game or other interactions (e.g., watching a movie). The reference list may provide the user with the means to link to a more detailed source of information about the product and/or an opportunity to purchase the product.
 An exemplary system for implementing the aforementioned impression-based and interaction-based reference list population methods is also disclosed as is a software-medium for implementing the same.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1A illustrates a `tagged` object in a digital environment such as a video game.
 FIG. 1B illustrates a `tagged` object wherein an advertisement has been `inserted` into the `tagged` area.
 FIG. 2 illustrates an exemplary digital video game environment with a variety of `tagged` objects for the insertion of advertising content.
 FIG. 3 illustrates a means for determining whether an advertisement impression has been generated for the purpose of populating an advertisement reference list using a line-of-sight determination.
 FIG. 4 illustrates an advertisement reference list generated as the result of advertising impressions or advertisement interactions.
 FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary method for populating an advertisement reference list in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary system for generating an advertisement reference list in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
 Certain objects in a digital medium such as a video game may be `tagged,` these `tagged` areas being subject to the possible insertion or placement of advertising content. For example, and as shown in FIG. 1A, the face of a billboard 100 may be `tagged` (110) to indicate that an advertisement may be embedded in that location. In this way, an advertising system like that disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 09/780,995 and 11/241,229 may, via an advertising client embodied in video game software or system hardware, identify various tagged areas 110. The system may then provide advertising content that may be imposed through texturing or other graphic rendering techniques that make it appear as if the advertisement was designed specifically for the billboard as shown FIG. 1B (120). The disclosure of the aforementioned '229 application is incorporated herein by reference. Such dynamic advertising content may be pushed or pulled into the video game or other digital environment via, for example, an end-user client and/or advertising server.
 Advertising content may also be loaded into digital media during development and subsequently `unlocked` by a game player after purchase of the media. For example, a user may input a special code or obtain an `Easter egg` in a game whereby specific ads embedded in the game are made available for association with one or more tagged advertising assets. Similar codes or `Easter eggs` may be used to unlock special content delivered over a network, such as advertisements hosted by an advertisement server.
 Various methodologies for `inserting` content into a `tagged` asset are known in the art. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,946,664 for an "Apparatus and Method for Executing a Game Program Having Advertisements Therein" discloses receiving, at predetermined times, advertising data that relates to at least one advertisement in a video game. The advertising data may then be displayed in particular locales in the game environment in accordance with the particular game program. U.S. Pat. No. 6,539,544 for a "Game Machine System, Broadcasting System, Data Distribution System, and Method, Program Executing Apparatus and Method" discloses a system configured to distribute digital data in response to software start enable signals and identification signals. These signals may correspond to commercial advertisements for substitution or insertion into a portion of the data at the receiver side system. The disclosure of both U.S. Pat. No. 5,946,664 and U.S. Pat. No. 6,539,544 are incorporated herein by reference. Other alternative, equivalent, or derived methodologies for introducing advertising content into a `tagged` area may be used in the practice of the presently disclosed invention.
 FIG. 2 illustrates an exemplary digital video game environment 200--in this case a cityscape--with a variety of advertisements as may be implemented in an embodiment of the present invention. The elements identified in FIG. 2 are exemplary and may include various alternatives, equivalents, or derivations thereof. The cityscape game environment 200 may reflect any number of objects and structures as may be found in a city environment: for example, a number of buildings in addition to vehicles that travel throughout the general landscape (e.g., hills, mountains, etc.) via a series of roadways. Certain objects may also appear in the video game environment 200 surrounding the city, such as airplanes and the like.
 While a cityscape is depicted in FIG. 2, any number of different video game environments may be utilized within the scope of the present invention. For example, the video game environment may be a race-track, which might reflect the racing surface and grandstands filled with spectators. `Pit-row` might run along side a particular portion of the race-track. Alternatively, the video game environment 200 may be a modern or medieval battlefield in addition to any number of natural environments (e.g., underwater, outer space, open fields, forests, mountains, etc.). The present invention may be implemented in any video game environment 200. Regardless of the particular video game environment 200, game designers and engineers may attempt to make the environment as realistic as possible. This realism may be achieved by including objects and structures that lend to realism of that particular environment.
 In the case of the cityscape of FIG. 2, part of that realism may be attributed to various types of signage, specifically advertisements, trade names, trademarks or corporate logos (collectively referred to as advertisements) that indicate the source or quality of certain goods and/or services. Various structures in the video game environment 200 of FIG. 2 exhibit numerous types of exemplary signage and advertisements 210.
 For example, advertisement 210a is an advertisement as may be found on the side of a taxi-cab. The advertisement may be the taxi-cab company name and phone number or for a particular good or service in the region serviced by the taxi-cab (e.g., a night club). Similarly, advertisement 210b is an advertisement as may be found on the side of a bus, which may be for the local newspaper, a local radio show, or an upcoming movie. Likewise, advertisement 210c found on the side of, for example, an industrial vehicle may be for a particular shipping company (e.g., a moving company) or for the name of the company whose cargo is being shipped (e.g., a furniture company).
 Advertisements may also be on billboards as in the case of advertisement 210d and advertisement 210e. Such billboards may be alongside a road (like advertisement 210d) or may be atop a building (like advertisement 210e). Any variety of goods or services may be found on such billboards as is the case in the real world. Signage and related advertisements and indicia of sponsorship or ownership may also be found on the face of a building (like advertisement 210f), which could reflect the name of the company occupying the building or may also be a poster of some sort applied to the face of a building that may be permanent or temporary (like advertisement 210g).
 Advertisements may be found in a variety of other mediums in the video game environment 200. Examples of such mediums include skywriting, banners that follow behind an airplane (like advertisement 210f), or on the actual body of the airplane or a vehicle (e.g., painted on the body or frosted on the glass versus an affixed sign or placard). Advertisements may also be seen on any variety of posters and signs as may be found at bus stops or on televisions in an electronics store. Similarly, advertisements may be seen on handbills, flyers or other printed media in the video game environment 200. Additionally, certain advertising effects may be achieved through audio advertising over the radio or a loudspeaker or the spoken word of other characters in the video game environment 200 as is further discussed below.
 Advertising `tags` (as referenced in FIG. 1A) are not limited to identifying the space in a game environment 200 where advertisement content may be `inserted.` Advertisement `tags` may also reflect information such as size limitations, rendering parameters (e.g., coloring and shading), pointers to variables that track state and impression data, functions and programs associated with the advertisement, hyperlinks, mini-games associated with the advertisement, user-profile filters and, in some embodiments, even advertising relevance. For example, various parties may impose and apply rules and metadata related to the `tagging` of assets as well as the advertising content that is ultimately inserted into these assets. As a result of `tagging` various advertisement areas, not only may relevant advertising content (e.g., targeted advertising based on a user profile) be delivered to a user but the generation of an advertisement reference list may take place as is further described below.
 Advertising `tags` are not limited to non-moving `print-like` advertisements (e.g., a billboard). Advertising `tags` can also be associated with other formats such as audio and video. For example, a television in a video game may be `tagged.` This television `tag` may reflect that the user tuning the television to a particular channel may cause a full motion video advertisement to be streamed. Various other advertisements may be streamed or rendered on additional channels subject to the whim of the game designer and the extent of `tagging` of assets for advertisement introduction. Similar attributes may be reserved for providing real-time programming and the like (e.g., short films, movie previews and so forth).
 Similarly, audio may be `tagged` for advertising purposes. For example, if a user plays a video game with a radio (e.g., in an automobile), the game designer may create different stations whereby actual music from actual musical artists may be played. That music may be interspersed with various advertisements as one might hear over the radio in the real-world. Similarly, the actual music a user listens to may be a dynamic play list as in the case of a real-world radio station instead of a one-time, static soundtrack. In that way, the user may play the game today or five years from now and be able to listen to not only relevant advertisement but relevant music that is current and popular as of the day the user plays the game.
 Determining whether an advertisement impression of a `tagged` asset has occurred for the purpose of populating an advertisement reference list may be accomplished using a line-of-sight determination as illustrated in FIG. 3. The elements identified in FIG. 3 are exemplary and may include various alternatives, equivalents, or derivations thereof. In FIG. 3, an obstructed line-of-sight 320 is shown between game character 300 and advertisement 310. FIG. 3 also shows an unobstructed line-of-sight 350 between game character 300' at a different position relative to advertisement 310. The determination of obstruction may be established by testing line-of-sight 320 (or 350) between game character 300 (300') and advertisement 310 that passes through a center of an obstruction probe 325.
 In some embodiments, obstruction probe 325 may be a spherical object with a predetermined radius r. Obstruction probe 325 may travel along the line of sight 320 (or 350) between game character 300 (300') and advertisement 310. If obstruction probe 325 does not collide with any obstacles, then the line-of-sight between the game character and advertisement 310 may be deemed as being unobstructed. If game character 300 is located in an optional impression area (as described herein) and oriented toward the advertisement 310, an impression of the advertisement 310 may be confirmed and advertisement reference information may be added to an advertisement reference list. Unobstructed line-of-sight 350 illustrates the absence of object obstruction between game character 300' and advertisement 310, which may allow for an advertising impression and subsequent population of an advertisement reference.
 Alternatively, line-of-sight 320 may be obstructed as a result of one or more objects 330a . . . 330c, preventing an advertising impression and the subsequent addition of advertisement information to an advertisement reference list. If the obstruction probe 325, while traveling along (obstructed) line-of-sight 320 intersects one or more polygonal sides 340a . . . 340c of one or more objects 330a . . . 330c, where each of one or more objects 330a . . . 330c is typically constructed from multiple polygonal sides 340a . . . 340c, then an unobstructed view of the advertisement 310 relative the game character 300 may not be possible and no advertising impression may be generated notwithstanding the presence of the game character 300 in an optional impression area.
 An impression area may be defined, in part, by a combination of a first angle θi and a second angle θr relative to a surface vector of the advertisement. The first angle θi is the angle measured from a ray to the surface normal (θ) wherein normal incidence is an angle of zero. The second angle θr is the angle measured from a ray to the surface normal. The second angle θr, at least with regard to isotropic surface, may be identical to the first angle θi (i.e., θi=θr). For example, a first angle θi and second angle θr each may have an angle of about 30.sup.θ relative the surface normal. Impression area or obstruction probe information may be defined by an advertiser (e.g., through an advertisement `tag`) or set by a particular manufacturer of a video game or other digital environment wherein an advertisement might be viewed. Various other impression area determination methodologies are disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/241,229.
 In some embodiments of the present invention, partial viewing of and exposure to an advertisement may be sufficient to establish an advertising impression for the purpose of populating an advertisement reference list. For example, certain trademarks or logos may have established a certain degree of notoriety within the purchasing public. For these famous or easily recognizable trademarks or logos, viewing even a portion of the trademark or logo may be sufficient to establish an advertising impression.
 Similar `partial viewing impressions` may be acceptable with regard to slogans, celebrities, famous spokespersons, and so forth. In these instances, even though the obstruction probe 325 may intersect with an object, if the intersection involves only a small percentage of the probe 325, then a partial impression may be generated that allows for the transfer of information to an advertisement reference list. If the object obscures the advertisement in its entirety--that is, 100% of the probe 325 intersects with the object--then no impression may be generated and the advertisement reference list may not be populated with any new information.
 The radius r of the obstruction probe 325 may be reduced whereby a collision with a polygonal sides 340a . . . 340c of one or more objects 330a . . . 330c may be avoided thus allowing for an unobstructed line-of-sight and, subject to presence in an optional impression area, establishing an advertising impression and subsequent population of an advertisement reference list. In that regard, the radius r of obstruction probe 325 may be relative to an advertisement to be viewed. Information relative the setting of radius r may, as noted above, be part of advertising data pushed to a video game environment by an advertising server in the context of an advertisement tag.
 Population of an advertisement reference list may also be subject to the measurement of a user's exposure to an advertisement via an impression counter like that described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/241,229. Through the use of an impression counter, an advertiser may determine whether an impression has been made if the existence of an impression is tied to the duration of presence in the advertisement impression area (e.g., the time of exposure to the advertisement). An advertisement impression as may be tied to population of an advertisement reference list may be defined as unobstructed exposure to an advertisement for a certain period of time. A ratio as to obstruction percentage versus exposure time be also be used. For example and with regard to generating an impression, the obstruction of a portion of an advertisement may be overcome through greater exposure to the remainder of the advertisement that is not obstructed.
 The various advertisement impression determinations disclosed herein may be implemented utilizing software downloads or through software installed on physical media (e.g. a software client on an optical disk) or may be pre-installed in a gaming device. Various software modules that interact with the advertisement impression determination software (e.g., receiving advertisement impression information for reporting to an advertiser) may be further located in various other aspects of an advertisement system or a single hardware device interaction with a large system (e.g., over a network).
 Advertisements, especially those ads that are audible in nature or are full motion video, may be subject to real-time limitations. For example, a user in a video game may be changing the channels of a television in the video game environment. If the user only watches two seconds of the advertisement, an impression may or may not be generated and the reference list may or may not populated as is appropriate. Such limitations in the case of real-time advertising may be subject not only to an impression area but also an impression time and even an impression time relative particular portions of the advertisement.
 For example, an advertisement may be thirty-seconds in length but the first five-seconds may not indicate the nature of the product and the last five-seconds may concern legal boilerplate required by the particular advertisement. If an impression time is identified as five-seconds, watching the first or last five-seconds of this particular advertisement would technically constitute an impression notwithstanding the fact that the user knows nothing more about the product after those five-seconds than they did prior. In these cases, limitations as to impressions of particular portions of an advertisement may be implemented. For example, for an advertiser to consider there to have been an impression, the user may be required to not only view five-seconds of the advertisement but those five-seconds must be within the middle 20-seconds of the 30-second advertisement (i.e., the substantive portion of the advertisement).
 Video or audio ads may also be subject to start-stop loops. That is, the advertisement may start when the user accesses the advertisement (e.g., tunes to a radio station playing the advertisement) and may then stop when the user leaves the advertisement (e.g., changes the radio to another station). If the user then changes back to the original station with the advertisement, the advertisement may commence where it left off as if no time has passed. Such a methodology better ensures an impression of the advertisement on a user but may do so at the risk compromising reality (i.e., real-time passage of time is not in effect). Similar looping may be applied to video wherein the tagged object may track the state of the advertisement impression. Video related objects may comprise an index of the location in a video file to start the next sequence for the video loop.
 Other advertisements may be rendered or emitted in true real-time. For example, a television advertisement in a video game may be two-minutes in length. The user may change the channel in the video game after thirty-seconds of viewing the advertisement but then come back to the same channel thirty-seconds later. The advertisement may now be at the 60-second point and not the 30-second point as may be the case in a start-stop embodiment.
 While real-time advertisements may be more realistic, ensuring an impression may become more difficult relative the portion of the advertisement the user viewed as has been previously noted. Certain impressions, especially in the real-time video and audio sense, may be subject to ongoing impression limitations. For example, an impression may constitute viewing 30-seconds of a one minute advertisement. The user may, at one point in the game, view a first 10-second portion of the advertisement, view a second 10-second portion at a different point in the game and view yet another 10-second portion at another point in the game. In this instance, the user--albeit piecemeal--may have viewed enough of the advertisement over the course of time to constitute an impression. Advertising client software or advertisement reference module 655 (FIG. 6) may track this progress.
 Other advertisements may limit an impression opportunity to consecutive time or such piecemeal viewing/listening but within an overall time frame. For example, viewing the advertisement in 10-second snippets may suffice as an advertisement but their viewings must occur within 15 minutes of one another. Other advertisements may require the thirty-seconds to occur consecutively or an impression may not be established.
 In another embodiment of the present invention, advertisement reference population may occur through interaction with an advertisement, product, or service. For example, a user may cause their game character to listen to a particular song on the radio or watch a particular movie or television program. Similarly, the user may cause their character to drive a particular automobile or to drink a particular beverage. The user may further cause their character to interact with certain items in the environment such as articles of clothing, fashion accessories, or any other good or service.
 Interactions may include an information exchange, a communication, observation, detection of sound, and direct or indirect physical contact contact. For example, an interaction may constitute an exchange of information via a conversation. An interaction may also be represented by the receipt of information via observations. Alternatively, a character may interact directly with an object. For example, a game character may pick up a soft drink sold by a particular soft drink manufacturer. In a further embodiment, a game character may hear a communication, for example, from a television or a radio broadcast or between other game characters. In yet another embodiment, a game character may indirectly come into contact with a product; for example by discharging a weapon at a vending machine or a billboard. The above described game interactions are exemplary; the scope of the present invention covers all types of interactions with an advertisement, product, or service. As such, these interactions include a broad universe of alternatives, equivalents, and derivations thereof.
 Certain items in an environment may also be sponsored items. For example, a particular event in a game (e.g., a mini-game or a contest) may be sponsored by a real-world company. Interactions or impressions associated with a sponsored event or item would also cause the generation of advertisement identifiers that would populate a reference list as is discussed in FIG. 4 below.
 FIG. 4 illustrates an advertisement reference list 400 generated as the result of advertising impressions or advertisement interactions. The elements identified in FIG. 4 are exemplary and may include various alternatives, equivalents, or derivations thereof. Items in the list (i.e., advertisement identifiers 410) may be represented in any number of different formats. For example, items may be listed alphabetically or may be subject to certain priorities as established through various advertisers `buying in` to an advertisement network. One advertiser may pay a premium fee for their product name to be listed prior to other product names. Listings may also be subject to the order in which a user interacted with an advertisement or when an impression was generated. Listings may also be categorized; for example, by product sector or service sector. Sub-categories may also be generated: food, movies, music, etc. Any number of categorization and arrangement schemes may be implemented in reference list 400.
 Advertisement identifiers 410 may also be accompanied by other ancillary advertisement data 420. For example, the ancillary advertisement data may comprise a small `thumbnail` image of a particular product (e.g., a movie poster or book cover); a sound file (e.g., a user testimonial); a Java® applet (e.g., to provide constantly updated advertisement data) and the like.
 Advertisement identifiers 410 may also be associated with a notes field 430. Through notes filed 430, certain information related to the advertisement identifier 410 and the advertisement to which it is associated and contextual information about that advertisement may be provided. For example, the notes field 430 may identify when the advertisement was seen, who the sponsor of the advertisement is, how the advertisement was added to the reference list 400, and so forth. The notes field 430 may also comprise user-added data such as a particular note as to why the user found the advertisement interesting (e.g., there is a particular actor in this movie whom the user likes). Such note data may be provided through a virtual keyboard or similar text-entry interface. Voice recognition may also be utilized whereby the notes field 430 may comprise recorded audio information generated by the user through, for example, a USB microphone or textual information transcribed from such audio information.
 Advertisement identifier 410 may comprise a hyperlink to additional information about the product or service in the associated advertisement that caused the generation of the identifier 410. For example, a user may select an identifier 410 from the reference list 400 via a controller device. The link may then cause the launching of a web browser or other interface tool such that more detailed data about the particular service or product may be provided. This link may, in some instances, lead directly to the product manufacturer or service provider's website as may occur over a network connection. Upon arrival, the user may then peruse the website or other data portal of the service/product. In this way, the user may learn more about the appropriate service/product or make a purchase. Selecting a particular identifier 410 may also lead to a third-party site where similar or identical information about a product or service may be provided.
 In some instances, the aforementioned third-party site may be a shopping portal such as Amazon.com. In these instances, the user may then begin a commercial transaction to purchase the product. In one embodiment, user data as may be stored on a memory card. Alternatively, user data may be made accessible due to, for example, a user having logged onto the network and certain data having been stored in a `cookie.` This user data may automatically be populated into an order form (e.g., name, billing address, etc.) in order to expedite the purchase. In other instances, the third-party site may be a consumer review type website or portal. On such a site, information about a product or service as generated by actual users/purchasers of the particular service or product may be provided and/or reviewed.
 In other instances, selecting the identifier 410 may lead to the option for the manufacturer or an intermediary party to provide more information about the product or service. This information may be provided via an alternate communications medium. For example, the user may request information via e-mail or direct mail. The user may further request informative brochures or videos or a call from a customer service representative. Such an exchange may further occur on-line via, for example, a VoIP exchange or a textual chat session.
 Data may be accessed over a network (e.g., the Internet) or via various sites hosted by manufacturers, service providers or other third-parties. Data may also be retained and accessed locally. For example, if a particular software title on a CD-ROM is embedded with particular advertisements, additional information about products in those advertisements may also be embedded on the CD. Alternatively, the information may be located in an alternative local storage medium. That data may have been accessed over a network during a download or update procedure not necessarily related to the particular viewing of any given advertisement. Notwithstanding, such information may be obtained concurrently with advertisement viewing as well.
 FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary method 500 for populating an advertisement reference list in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The steps identified in FIG. 5 (and the order thereof) are exemplary and may include various alternatives, equivalents, or derivations thereof including but not limited to the order of execution of the same. The steps of the process of FIG. 5 (and its various alternatives) may be embodied in hardware or software including a machine-readable medium (e.g., optical disc, memory card, carrier waves, etc.) comprising instructions executable by a machine such as the processor of a computing device.
 In step 510, an object may be displayed in a digital environment, for example, on a billboard (100) like that described in FIG. 1A. In step 520, a determination may be made as to whether that object comprises a `tagged` area (e.g., 110 in FIG. 1A) wherein certain advertisement data may be implemented, inserted, or otherwise displayed. Depending on a particular advertising network, the nature of the software being executed, and the like, certain advertisement content may be displayed in the tagged area (110) as in FIG. 1B (120) in step 530.
 In step 540a, a determination may be made as to whether an impression of that advertisement content 120 has occurred. An advertisement impression may occur through any of the different methodologies described above and may be controlled by an advertising client in the particular game software and/or in conjunction with a similar client on a gaming or other digital consumer electronics device. In alternative (or optional additional) step 540b, a determination may be made as to whether an interaction with the advertisement content 120 has occurred. Depending on the particular advertisement and metadata in the `tagged` area (110), different interaction determinations may be made depending on the particular advertisement and/or area in which the advertisement is displayed.
 Once an impression has been made, and/or an interaction detected, the advertising client may recognize certain metadata embedded in the `tagged` area and/or the advertisement currently being rendered. The advertising client may report that information to a reference list generation module (FIG. 6) such that an advertisement identifier 410 may be added to the aforementioned reference list 400 in step 550. In some embodiments, the advertising client may be a part of the advertisement reference list module 655 of FIG. 6 or vice versa.
 In some embodiments of the present invention, an advertiser may wish to have their particular name/product as is reflected by an advertisement identifier 410 added to the reference list 400 at any cost. Through this addition, a user may learn more information about a particular product or service. In other embodiments, a premium fee may be charged to particular advertisers. In such an embodiment, the addition of the advertiser's name (via advertisement identifier 410) to an advertisement reference list 400 may provide somewhat exclusive and focused contact with the user. In these cases, the appearance of an advertisement identifier 410 on a reference list may provide for the imposition of a fee charged to the advertiser. This fee may reflect the benefit of the advertisement having been seen by the user. Alternatively, a fee may be charged to the advertiser in that their advertisement may have been seen in a closed, focused context. This focused context may make the strength and value of the impression, in general, all the more worthwhile and valuable.
 Various pricing structures may be implemented in the present invention. These pricing structures may be implemented with regard to the ease of viewing/interacting with an advertisement (e.g., particular settings with regard to an advertisement impression area or line-of-sight setting). These pricing structures may also be reflective of the number of times an advertisement appears. Pricing structures may also take into consideration limitations with regard to population of the reference list 400, particular placement of the reference list 400, availability of ancillary data on that list, and other limitations as to linking, purchases, third-party comments, and so forth.
 It should be noted that the advertisement reference list 400 may be used in contexts other than video games. For example, the advertisement reference list 400 may also be used in digital cinema, DVDs and other forms of digital media. Other alternatives, equivalents, and derivations thereof may also implement the aforementioned advertisement list 400 such as HD-DVD and Blue-Ray discs. In these instances, tagged assets may automatically cause the addition of an advertisement identifier 410 to the reference list 400. That is, the mere depiction of a tagged asset (110) and an advertisement thereon (120) on the screen may cause the reference list 400 to be updated.
 Further, televisions with Internet connections and HD television may allow for this interaction with an advertisement reference list 400 in a television show via the user's television. Generation of an advertisement reference list 400 may occur in conjunction with the use of the aforementioned Cell Processor. For example, a picture window may be displayed through interaction with, for example, an input device. The picture window may allow the user to go to a link of advertisement data related to the show that the user was just watching. In this way, it may become possible for a network-enabled television to download in-show advertisement as appropriate, which may be local, regional, or national.
 In step 560, a further determination may be made as to whether to the advertisement reference list 400 and its various identifiers 410 should be displayed to the user. This display may be integrated into the game environment. The display may also be a separate screen or a pop-up window that appears in the environment. The user may expressly call-up the reference list 400 through any variety of controller commands. Similarly, the reference list 400 may be displayed during game scene loading, at the end of a game level, or at the end of a game. Other means for causing the display of the list may be used. For example, the reference list 400 may be timer-based (i.e., the list appears every `x` minutes). The reference list 400 may also appear in response to certain conditions in the gaming environment. For example, such a condition may include the player not being engaged in combat or the player traveling at less than a particular speed. Both of these exemplary situations may tend to indicate diverted attention of the user from the game environment may be possible and without a strong possibility of adverse incident in the game environment (e.g., no enemy attack or less likelihood of crashing a vehicle). The reference list 400 may also be displayed anytime a user `pauses` game play or some other media utilizing the reference list (e.g., a DVD). Display control of the reference list 400 may be overseen by the reference list module of FIG. 6 (below). User preference may also be used to determine when the advertisement reference list 400 is displayed. For example, the user may set the display of the reference list 400 subject to one or more of the aforementioned display situations in addition to alternatives, equivalents, and derivations thereof.
 In step 570, various links to content related to the advertisement identifier 410 may be established. These links may be offered to the user in step 570 as a part of the advertisement identifier 410 (e.g., a hyperlink or, alternatively, a separate link listing). These links may also be offered in addition to any ancillary advertisement data 420. In step 580, a user may be linked to various other content sources via a user selection to learn more about a product or service. In step 590, an optional transaction may commence. This transaction may be commercial in nature with regard to the purchase of a particular product and/or service or may simply constitute a request for more information through any variety of different communications mediums. Certain pre-fetching methodologies may be used wherein certain content is pre-fetched from a particular resource (e.g., a content server) before the content is requested in order to accelerate download and display.
 In some embodiments of the present invention, a user may be granted access to restricted content through, for example, accessing data about an advertisement. The various categorizations of restricted content (e.g., video game, advertisement, or bonus content) and examples thereof (both of which are discussed herein) are exemplary. Restricted content may include various alternatives, equivalents, or derivations thereof as will be understood by those skilled in the art. As such, various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted with respect to restricted content without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.
 Restricted content may include additional video game content. Such content may sometimes be referred to as `Easter Eggs.` This content may include--but is not limited to--secret or additional game `levels,` special weapons, special powers, and special characters or avatars.
 Restricted content may also include content often referred to as `bonus content.` Bonus content may be associated with--but not limited to--DVDs, CDs, and other media that allow for the playback of program content such a movies, television shows, and music. The bonus content may include, for example, interviews with cast members, deleted scenes, previews for upcoming episodes of television shows or sequels to movies, or unreleased music tracks on a CD.
 Restricted content may also include additional advertising content such as videos, links to protected web sites (e.g., those that require a keyed URL), and opportunities to receive samples of upcoming products before widespread market release. The restricted advertising content may, in some embodiments, appear in the digital environment (e.g., as a billboard or a commercial broadcast over a television or radio). The restricted advertising content may, in other embodiments be accessed through reference list 400 along with other advertisement identifiers.
 For example, the restricted content may be added to the list as a new advertisement identifier. In such an example, the user may be informed of the addition of the new advertisement identifier to the reference list 400 through a pop-up window or some other communications means (e.g., an audible notification). The user may then review the new advertisement data in a fashion that may be similar to other identifiers on the reference list 400. In some embodiments, however, the user may be informed that new advertisement data (the formerly restricted content) is present on the reference list 400 or in the digital environment but information relating to the sponsor or exact locale of this new information may be specifically excluded from that notification. In this fashion, the user may be forced to search for the new advertisement data or other `unlocked` restricted content.
 By forcing the user to actively search for this new information in the reference list 400, the user may encounter other advertisement identifiers and/or advertisement data that was previously missed and/or ignored. The searching activity of the user may be tracked with respect to new advertisement impressions that are generated through the searching, access to, or interaction with various advertisement identifiers and/or advertisement data on the reference list 400. These new advertisement impressions and/or interactions may be added to the reference list 400 as appropriate and as if they occurred absent the presence of the unlocked restricted content.
 In one exemplary embodiment, the restricted content may be unlocked but subject to the user generating a predefined number of advertisement impressions. That is, the restricted content may now be available to the user but will require the user to be subjected to (for example) ten advertisement impressions in the reference list 400. The predefined number of advertisement impressions may be with regard to products and/or services associated with the unlocked restricted content; for example, products and/or services offered by the same manufacturer or distributor. The predefined number of impressions may also be unassociated with any particular product and/or service and imposed simply to generate additional advertisement impressions for an entity that may run a digital environment-based advertisement network and receive payment for each impression generated regardless of a sponsor thereof.
 Similar results may be achieved by placement of the unlocked restricted content in the digital environment. As a result of this placement of the restricted content in the digital environment, the user may be encouraged to re-play a game, re-watch a movie, or re-listen to a CD. The user, through this repeated activity in the digital environment may encounter advertisements and/or advertisement data that may have been previously missed and/or ignored.
 Unlocking the restricted content may occur, as reference above, as a result of the user accessing data about an advertisement. The data may include the advertisement itself or information about a particular product or service. This data may be from the product or service provider or from a third-party such as a distributor (e.g., Amazon.com). Access to the advertisement data may be conditioned upon exposure to the advertisement or advertisement data for a particular period of time (e.g., viewing at least 20 seconds of a 30 second advertisement video). Access may also be conditioned upon particular user interactions such as clicking on links, providing user information, participating in polls, and the like. Activities that result in a grant of access to restricted content may include various alternatives, equivalents, or derivations thereof as will be understood by those skilled in the art. As such, various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted with respect to accessing advertisement and advertisement data for the purpose of gaining access to restricted content without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.
 As a result of having accessed an advertisement or advertisement data, the user may then be provided with a variety of means to gain access to the restricted content. For example, the user may be given a password by a sponsor of the advertisement data. The sponsor may be the product or service provider or a third-party such as a distributor. Through entry of the password in response to a query mechanism as may be provided by the reference list 400 or some other menu as may be generated by, for example, a software application on a computer readable medium, the restricted content may be unlocked. A keyed URL may also be used in a similar fashion with respect to a Web browser.
 Unlocking of the restricted content may also be the result of a `cookie` being placed on a computing device displaying the advertisement or data about the advertisement. A cookie, as in known in the art, may include a parcel of text that may be used for authentication of a device or application with respect to accessing certain information. The cookie may be provided by a sponsor of the advertisement or data about the advertisement.
 Various alternatives, equivalents, or derivations of the aforementioned unlocking mechanisms will be understood by those skilled in the art. As such, various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted with respect to unlocking restricted content without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.
 In an additional embodiment of the present invention, a user may be granted access to a product bundle following the completion of a commercial transaction. For example, a user may (through reference list 400) access an advertisement or associated advertisement data about a product or service. That associated data may include an offer to purchase a particular product or service. Upon consummating the transaction (e.g., providing payment information), the user may be granted access to a bundle of products or services. This bundle of products or services may or may not be related to the purchased product or services. This bundle of products or services may not be available for purchase without making the aforementioned commercial transaction. In this manner, making one purchase may make it possible for the user to engage in additional purchases or commercial transactions.
 This product bundle may be identified to the user as now being available in the reference list 400. The user may be directed specifically to this bundle through a link provided to the user or some other indicia of where to find the bundle. Alternatively, the user may be required to search for the bundle as has been discussed with regard to accessing other unlocked restricted content such that additional advertisement impressions may be generated.
 FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary system 600 for generating an advertisement reference list in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The elements identified in FIG. 6 are exemplary and may include various alternatives, equivalents, or derivations thereof. The system 600 of FIG. 6 may be implemented in any number of client devices including but not limited to a portable media device or cellular phone, a home entertainment system such as a video game console. The system 600 may also be implemented in any variety of online gaming devices including desktop and laptop computers.
 The exemplary system 600 may comprise system control 605, media control 610, and peripheral control 615. System control 605 may be responsible for fundamental system operations (e.g., start-up, graphic rendering, input/output control, and so forth). Media control 610 may be responsible for handling various audio and video formats including advertisements. Peripheral control 615 may be responsible for the interface of various peripherals with the device.
 Various combinations of hardware, software, and computer-executable instructions (e.g., program modules and engines) may be utilized with regard to system control 605, media control 610, and peripheral control 615. Program modules and engines may include routines, programs, objects, components, data structures, and the like that perform particular tasks or implement particular abstract data types. Computer-executable instructions and associated data structures represent examples of the programming means for executing steps of the methods and implementing particular system configurations disclosed herein. Various alternatives, equivalents, or derivations thereof are envisioned in the practice of the present invention.
 System control 605 may comprise a central processing unit (CPU) 620, main memory 625, a graphics processing unit (GPU) 630, sound processing unit (SPU) 635, input/output processor (IOP) 640, and IOP memory 645. The various controls (605, 610, and 615) and the various components therein (e.g., CPU 620 and main memory 625) may be communicatively coupled via a series of buses both dedicated and shared.
 CPU 620 may utilize a dual-core 32-bit MIPS architecture although various other processor architectures may be utilized, including those disclosed in U.S. patent publication number 2002-0138637 for "Computer Architecture and Software Cells for Broadband Networks," the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference. CPU 620 may execute programs stored in an operating system read only memory (OS ROM) (not shown) and main memory 625. Main memory 625 may contain pre-stored programs and may also contain programs transferred via IOP 640 from any variety of interfaces controlled by peripheral control 615 (e.g., from an optical disk via optical disk controller interface 665). IOP 640 may control various exchanges between CPU 620 and GPU 630 as well as media control 610 and the aforementioned peripheral control 615. GPU 630 may execute drawing instructions from the CPU 620 and/or media control 610 to produce images for display on the client device. SPU 635 may execute instructions and process data to produce sound signals that are output on an audio device (not shown) that may be coupled to or otherwise integrated with device 630.
 Media control 610 may be responsible for handling various audio and video formats as may be introduced to a client device. An exemplary AV decoder 650 and reference list generation module 655 are disclosed in the present exemplary embodiment. Media control 610 may further comprise enhanced dynamic random access memory (not shown) and a virtual machine environment (VME) (also not shown) for implementing certain emulation environments to isolate a particular media application from the actual hardware architecture of the device (e.g., an execution `sandbox`).
 Through media control 610, a client device may be able to display still images, audio, and video as may be introduced through a variety of peripherals under the control of peripheral control 615 and working in conjunction with CPU 620 and GPU 630. In an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, media control 610 may implement various audio formats such as MP3, ATRAC3, WMA, WAV, MP4, and AAC. Media control 610 may also implement a variety of video formats including MPEG-4 Part 2 as well as H.264/AVC. Still images may also be implemented through media control 610 in formats such as JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIF, and PNG. Various alternative, equivalent, or derived formats for audio, video, still-image and combinations of the same are envisioned in the practice of the present invention.
 AV decoder 650 may decompress and/or decode a variety of media as may be introduced by peripheral control 615. Decompressed media may be temporarily stored in eDRAM (not shown) prior to its subsequent rendering and/or audible emission by the device.
 Peripheral control 615 may control a variety of peripheral input/outputs that may be present on the client device. For example, the client device may utilize flash memory as may be introduced through flash memory interface 660. Optical disc interface 665 may provide for the introduction of data through any variety of optical discs such as CD-ROM or DVD-ROM but may also include proprietary formats such as the Universal Media Disc from Sony Corporation. Peripheral control 615 may further include a USB 2.0 interface 670, which may further include a mini-B interface. The client device may also comprise a WLAN interface 675 such that device can exchange data with other computing devices utilizing an 802.11x wireless protocol.
 Other data input formats are well within the scope of the present invention, including an InfraRed interface conforming to IRDA standards or a Memory Stick® interface, the Memory Stick® being an IC-based recording medium from Sony Corporation. The client device may also comprise an IEEE 1394 ('FireWire') connection in addition to Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband (UWB) radio technology interfaces. Certain embodiments of the present invention may utilize a network adaptor, which may offer an Ethernet connection and/or telephony connection.
 Peripheral control 615 may also comprise controller interface 680 that may allow for the introduction of instructions through a control device, for example, a joystick, directional buttons, and other control buttons. Various other control input methodologies may be used such as a USB-camera like the Eye Toy® from Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. It should be noted that, in some instances, a control device (e.g., the aforementioned USB-camera) may sometimes be introduced to the device through an additional peripheral input such as USB interface 670.
 From metadata in a tagged region (110) or an actual advertisement (120) inserted into a tagged region or a set of data associated therewith, reference list generation module 655 may identify certain information about the advertisement (120). Through this identification, the reference list generation module 655 may import necessary or desired information into the advertisement reference list 400. This information may include the name of the advertiser, the nature of the product being advertised, or a particular display format for the advertisement identifier 410 to be rendered in the advertisement reference list. This information may also include a hyperlink to be established between the advertisement identifier 410 and any additional information sources (e.g., a website). The advertisement reference list module 655 (via metadata or other associated data) may further identify any ancillary advertisement data 420 such as logos, other graphics, applets, and the like.
 The reference list module 655 may then manage the acquisition of this additional information from the appropriate resource. For example, an advertisement that is to be inserted may be accompanied by a file constituting various ancillary data. The ancillary data may be stored in a memory buffer or other memory means (e.g., flash memory) and may be accessed as needed. This information may, alternatively, be embedded on a CD-ROM that is being read by the client device. Similarly, the module 655 may need to access a communications network in order to pull the needed data from a remote server or other memory store.
 Reference list module 655 may operate in conjunction with the various rendering hardware and software of the system 600 such as AV decoder 650, GPU 630, CPU 620, and SPU 635 to display the reference list 400, the advertisement identifiers 410 on that list, and any ancillary advertisement data 420. Advertisement reference list module 655 may further interact with WLAN interface 675 or some other network interface (not shown) in order to establish a network connection to obtain certain ancillary data or to other a link to another source of data once an advertisement identifier 410 is selected by a user from the advertisement reference list 400.
 Advertisement reference list module 655 may further operate with the advertisement client (not shown) in order to determine whether an impression of an advertisement has been made. Advertisement reference list module 655 may further operate with the advertisement client to determine whether there has been some interaction with an advertisement that would warrant the addition of the advertisement reference identifier 410 to the reference list 400. The advertisement client may be embodied locally on the system 600 or through software being accessed by the system 600. In some embodiments of the present invention, the advertisement client may be embedded in the advertisement metadata of a tag or advertisement. Through embedding the client, particular specifications may be imposed with regard to advertisement impressions. Advertisement client may also be a part of module 655 as has been previously noted.
 Advertisement reference module 655 may further operate to report certain interactions with an advertisement to an advertiser (e.g., feedback data). For example, a reference list 400 may be generated but a user may never select an identifier 410 on that list 400. While selecting an identifier 410 may provide an indicator to the advertiser or product manufacturer that an impression has been made by virtue of the user being redirected to a particular website (e.g., the redirection of the user may be accompanied by data concerning the cause and source of the redirection), merely populating the reference list 400 may not. In these instances, advertisement reference module 655 may generate data concerning the addition of the identifier 410 to the list 400 as the result of an interaction and/or impression and report that data to a particular advertiser. Instructions pertaining to generating this data may be embedded in a particular tag or advertisement inserted into the tag.
 While the present invention has been described with reference to exemplary embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the true spirit and scope of the present invention. In addition, modifications may be made without departing from the essential teachings of the present invention. Various alternative systems may be utilized to implement the various methodologies described herein and various methods may be used to achieve certain results from the aforementioned systems.
Patent applications by Gary M. Zalewski, Oakland, CA US
Patent applications by Glen Van Datta, San Diego, CA US