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METHOD FOR EXPANDING INTERACTIVE CATV DISPLAY ABLE CHOICES FOR A GIVEN CHANNEL CAPACITY
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED
This application is related to my previous commonly owned U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,264,925 entitled "Interactive Cable Television System" naming Michael J. Freeman and Lawrence G. Kurland as joint inventors thereof, and 4,264,924, entitled "Dedicated Channel Interactive Cable Television System" naming Michael J. Freeman as the sole inventor thereof; and my copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 390,877 filed June 22, 1982 15 now U.S. Pat. No. 4,507,680, entitled "One Way Interactive Multisubscriber Communication System" naming Michael J. Freeman as the sole inventor thereof. The present invention is believed to be an improvement over the subject matter of the aforementioned patents 20 and application, the contents of which are specifically incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.
The present invention relates to interactive communi- 25 cation systems, such as cable television systems, and particularly to expanding the displayable choices for a given channel capacity in one way systems for providing an interactive information output over a common output channel from a plurality of remotely transmitted 30 different information inputs.
Real time conversational student response teaching apparatus are known, such as described in U.S. Pat. 35 Nos. 3,947,972 and 4,078,316. In addition, multiple choice student response systems are well known, such as exemplified by the systems disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,921,385; 3,020,360; 2,826,828; 3,623,238; 3,546,791; 3,273,260; 3,665,615; 3,245,147; 3,284,923; 3,538,621; 40 3,477,144; 3,708,891; 3,255,536; 2,777,901; 2,908,767; 3,774,316; 3,194,895; 3,484,950; 3,343,280; and 3,763,577, by way of example. None of these prior art systems, however, has been adapted to be employed in connection with conventional cable television in which 45 an essentially one way system is convertible on a subscriber-by-subscriber basis into what appears to be a two way interactive network in which the television programming information to be received by the individual subscribers is individually selectable to enable the 50 subscriber to receive either selectable multi-information television programming and/or regular television programming on the television reception channels of a conventional multichannel television receiver. Moreover, although prior art subscription cable television 55 systems per se are known in which a plurality of unrelated television programs, under control of a computer, are transmitted over a common television channel for selection by the individual subscribers, such as disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,814,841 and 3,757,225, such systems 60 are not one-way interactive systems capable of independent subscriber selectable reception of simultaneously transmitted multi-information television programming and regular television programming over a common designated television reception channel. Such an ar- 65 rangement would greatly expand the educational and entertainment capabilities and horizons of cable television systems with the prior art essentially being con
cerned with a severely limited quantity of users. The desire to expand the educational capabilities and horizons of mass entertainment media has greatly increased with the advent of cable television in which considerably more channels than were previously available are present. Nevertheless, even though cable television has existed for a number of years, it has not been employed, to applicant's knowledge with the exception of applicant's prior U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,264,925 and 4,269,924, in an interactive conversational type teaching or interactive entertainment system in which a mass audience of people, in addition to their regular programming, can receive individually controllable instantaneous real-time effective interaction with the questions being asked, and/or individual tailored messages or entertainment. Although such a system is described in the above U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,264,925 and 4,264,924, these prior systems do not provide for automatic selection of individual interactive responses based on prior accumulated interactive responses of the individual subscribers, such as by providing weighted values to the various responses; however, such a system is described in my aforementioned copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 390,977, filed June 22, 1982, the contents of which were specifically incorporated by reference herein in their entirety. Nevertheless, these prior systems and methods for providing interactive cable television programming do not provide for both time and space multiplexing of integral video displayable program information so as to provide a quantity of available interactively selectable CATV program information contents for a given television programming sequence which is greater. Such an improvement over my prior systems is believed to significantly enhance the educational and entertainment value of such an interactive system while overcoming the various disadvantages of the prior art.
DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to an interactive communication system, such as an interactive cable television system, for providing an interactive information output over a common output channel from a plurality of remotely transmitted different information inputs and, more particularly, relates to a method for expanding the interactive displayable choices for a given channel capacity whereby multiple users of a one-way television signal distribution network may obtain an individualized program information content for a television programming sequence, with the quantity of available interactively selectable program information contents for the television programming sequence being greater than the quantity of available channels of contemporaneous message transmission. The improved method of the present invention comprises the step of transmitting a plurality of different spatially adjacent multichannel television message stacks over a plurality of contemporaneous channels with each of the adjacent multichannel stacks comprising a simultaneously transmitted plurality of different separately selectable substantially complete prerecorded television messages in real time over the plurality of contemporaneous television channels to the plurality of multi-channel television receivers through the one-way distribution network, a single substantially complete television message being interactively selectable from the plurality of adjacent stacks for providing the real time interactive television message for the multi-channel television receiver. The quantity
of available interactively selectable prerecorded television messages in the adjacent stacks is greater than the quantity of the plurality of contemporaneous television channels with the plurality of stacks comprising a television programming sequence having an interactively 5 variable program information content for a given television program. The program content for the given television program further comprises a common prerecorded television message commonly displayable during the given television program irrespective of any 10 interactive selection of the interactively selectable television messages. The improved method further comprises the steps of providing the plurality of stacks over the plurality of channels to the multichannel receiver through the one-way distribution network from a multi- 15 channel storage means and interactively selecting in real time one of the selectable messages from the plurality of stacks for providing the television programming sequence program information content, a different interactive selection providing a different program information content for the television programming sequence. A different receiver is capable of independently selecting a different program information content for the television programming sequence. Each of the complete television messages in the plurality of stacks comprises a segway portion for providing an information transition between the common television message and the television programming sequence with the television programming sequence and the common television ^Q message being adjacent in real time in the given television program which comprises a plurality of such television sequences. In addition, the improved method of the present invention further comprises interactively creating a selection profile for a subscriber and interac- 35 tively selecting in real time one of the selectable messages from the plurality of stacks based upon this selection profile, whereby a tailored program content for the television programming sequence for the subscriber may be provided. By employing the improved method 40 of the present invention tailored televison commercials for particular subscribers can be provided with, for example, the television programming sequences comprising different television commercial messages or, for example, the television program may be an interactive 45 game show with the televison programming sequence comprising different game scores. In such an instance, in an interactive game show, the game may be interactively played to obtain a selection profile with the selected messages comprising the different game scores 50 based on the selection profile, whereby an interactive game may be played and scored in real time with the television program content being varied accordingly. In addition to the above, a change code signal may be transmitted from the head end to a plurality of televi- 55 sion receivers over the one-way distribution network so as to make the receivers responsive to a different selection profile, whereby the selection profile upon which the interactive selection is based may be varied from the head end. Similiarly, the selection profile may be in- 60 teractively created in advance of transmission of the television program with the real time interactive selection being based upon the prior created selection profile. Thus, in accordance with the preferred method of the present invention, tremendous flexibility is provided 65 for an interactive one-way television communication system by expanding the displayable choices for a given channel capacity.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is an overall system block diagram of a typical interactive cable television system capable of being employed in accordance with the presently preferred method of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a typical home unit portion of the system of FIG. 1 capable of being employed in practicing the presently preferred method of the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a diagrammatic illustration of the command insertion portion of the presently preferred method of the present invention;
FIG. 4 is a diagrammatic illustration of a command development flow diagram in accordance with the presently preferred method of the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a block diagram of a typical micro-controller portion of the home unit of FIG. 2 which may be employed in practicing the presently preferred method of the present invention; and
FIG. 6 is a diagrammatic illustration of a typical program information storage arrangement for use in accordance with the presently preferred method of the present invention.
BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE
Referring now to the drawings in detail, and initially to FIGS. 1, 3, 4, and 6, the presently preferred method of the present invention preferably utilizes a plurality of different continuous real time interactive television messages which are substantially simultaneously provided during a given prerecorded television program to a plurality of multichannel television receivers, such as represented by conventional television receiver 20 in FIG. 1, which form part of a conventional one-way common television signal distribution network such as a conventional CATV television network generally represented by the reference numeral 10 in FIG. 1. As shown by way of example in FIG. 1, the typical one way cable television distribution network 10 preferably includes by way of example, four conventional video tape recorders 22, 24, 26, and 28, assuming, by way of example, four information channels are utilized although no such limitation is required, and a conventional sync generator 30, with the video tape recorders 22, 24, 26, 28 and the sync generator 30 comprising the program source. In addition, such a typical one-way cable television distribution system 10 also includes conventional links 32, 34, 36 and 38, respectively, to a conventional satellite or microwave or other master distribution network 40 and, therefrom, via other conventional links 42, 44, 46 and 48 and conventional modulators 50, 52, 54 and 56, to a conventional signal combiner 58 which combines the outputs of the video tape recorders 22, 24, 26 and 28 and the sync generator 30 into a conventional multiplexed television signal which is transmitted over the conventional cable television distribution network 60 to the subscribers. One such typical subscriber 62 is shown, by way of example, in FIG. 1. As shown in FIGS. 1, 2 and 5, by way of example, a typical subscriber 62 system may include a conventional multichannel television 20, a home unit 64, to be described in greater detail with reference to FIGS. 2 and 5, an external demographics box 66 which may be linked via a conventional modem over a conventional telephone line 68 to a remote collector of this data, and a conventional remote control unit 70 which may be