On-Board Vessel Entertainment System
An improved user experience is provided for passengers on a vessel such as an airplane, train or ship. Passengers can customize their travel experience ahead of time by accessing a web-based server system to indicate preferences with respect to a number of in-flight entertainment options. The passenger's experience is also enhanced by allowing passengers to share preferences such as media playlists with others. Meals can be ordered on-demand once on board, and seat-to-seat chat as well as group chatting is also made available through an in-seat or other proximate entertainment device.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This application is a division of application Ser. No. 11/853,016, filed on Sep. 10, 2007, which claims the benefit of provisional application Ser. No. 60/825,071, filed on Sep. 8, 2006, each of which is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to a vessel entertainment system. More specifically, the present invention is directed toward an on-board system for use on airplanes, trains, ships and other vessels, and which enables entertainment and communications features customizable by each passenger.
2. Description of the Related Art
Many commercial vessels designed to carry passengers include entertainment systems. For example, many airlines operate aircraft—particularly on international flight segments—that include displays mounted in the back of each seat, allowing passengers to watch in-flight movies, television shows, and view real-time maps showing the aircraft's location, airspeed, and distance to destination. However, the features available using these conventional devices are limited.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention enables an improved user experience for passengers on a vessel. Passengers can customize their travel experience ahead of time by accessing a web-based server system to indicate preferences with respect to a number of in-flight entertainment options. The passenger's experience is also enhanced by allowing passengers to share preferences such as media playlists with others.
In one embodiment, a user creates a profile on a website associated with the vessel in which he will be traveling, for example, an airline or train company website. Once the passenger has an account with the website, he specifies preferences, which may include creating audio playlists, video (movies and television) playlists, meal preferences, buddy lists, and privacy preferences. User preference data is stored in an account associated with the user.
Next, the user makes arrangements to travel aboard the vessel. For example, the user may be an airline passenger making arrangements to travel aboard a specific flight. Once the reservation is made, the user's preference data is associated with the reservation and is preloaded on the vessel prior to the user's voyage. When the passenger arrives aboard the vessel, he authenticates himself at a terminal known as an entertainment device on board the vessel. A user interface configured according to his specified preference data is then displayed. While on board, the passenger can interact with the entertainment device to listen to music, watch videos, chat with other passengers individually or in a group, order meals, check e-mail, and the like. Updates to user preferences are stored locally on board the vessel and forwarded to the ground-based site when a connection is available. In an alternative embodiment, a connection is available while the vessel is underway, and the local system can communicate with the ground-based site in real time instead of through a store-and-forward method, allowing instant authentication and updating of the user's account.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The figures depict preferred embodiments of the present invention for purposes of illustration only. One skilled in the art will readily recognize from the following discussion that alternative embodiments of the structures and methods illustrated herein may be employed without departing from the principles of the invention described herein.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
Note that in
Many different preference settings may be established by the user. In one embodiment, and referring to
Once the user has added any desired tracks or albums from the results page to the playlist, and referring now to
Playlist editing page 600 also allows the user to specify a publishing option for the playlist. In one embodiment, publishing options include publishing for all passengers 612, which allows access to the playlist by all passengers on all vessels associated with system 100; publishing only for passengers traveling on the same vessel as the user 614; and not publishing for anyone 616.
Once the user has created the playlist and specified its publication settings, the playlist is stored in playlist database 136 and associated with the user's account in user database 128. Playlists can be displayed, edited and removed through a user interface 700 such as illustrated in
Although the example illustrated above details the creation and editing of audio playlists, video playlists may be created in an analogous manner.
In one embodiment, user preference data is pre-loaded 208 to on-board system 101 prior to the user's voyage. In one embodiment, vessel communication server 130 is in communication with synchronization module 112 of on-board system 101, e.g., while an aircraft is on the ground, a ship is in port, etc. Communication may be effected using, for example, using the Terminal Data Loader (TDL) device from IMS of Anaheim, Calif., which supports wireless communication using 802.11, GSM or CDMA technologies. Alternatively, passenger data may be supplied on CD, DVD, tape, or another medium. Vessel communication server 130 provides a subset of user information from user database 128 corresponding to the passenger manifest; user preferences from user preferences database 134 corresponding to the subset of users; and any associated playlists from playlist database 136. Once the user preference data is made available to on-board system 101 it is stored in passenger database 142, user preferences database 108, and playlists database 138, respectively.
Once on board the vessel, the user interacts with system 100 through entertainment device 102.
The user logs in 210 (
Entertainment device 102 enables users to select from a variety of entertainment and service options. In one embodiment, and referring to
In one embodiment, movies, music videos, premium TV and short films represent content stored on media server 106. When a user chooses one of these options, a list of available content is displayed, and the user selects the content he wishes to view. For example, selection of the premium TV option 1108 displays an interface such as the interface 1200 illustrated in
In other embodiments, a fee is not charged for displaying content. One such alternative embodiment includes providing content free of charge to passengers in a premium cabin such as first class.
Selection of the movies 1102, music videos 1104 and short films 1110 options allows viewing of that content in a manner analogous to selection of premium TV. The selected content is then streamed from media server 106 to entertainment device 102, and any fees charged are stored in transactions database 120 for subsequent forwarding to ground system 132 via synchronization module 112.
On-board system 101 includes in one embodiment a satellite receiver 114 designed to receive television, radio and other transmissions from satellite broadcasters such as DISH Network by EchoStar Satellite L.L.C. and XM Satellite Radio. Selection of TV option 1106 allows a user to view broadcasts received by satellite receiver 114, i.e. to watch live television and listen to live radio broadcasts.
In one embodiment, and referring to
Once the user has selected a program to watch from programming guide 1100, streaming of that programming begins.
Selecting the all artists option 1402 provides a user interface screen 1500 such as the one illustrated in
Selection of play button 908 (
Selection of talk button 910 allows the user to talk with other passengers aboard the vessel in real time. The chat may be either point-to-point or server-based, and may be between only two people, or between multiple participants. To begin, referring to
As noted, each passenger participating in the chat does so via his or her respective entertainment device 102. Each device is in communication with seat-to-seat chat server 110, which receives transmissions from each device and broadcasts the transmissions to the other participants in the chat. In an alternative embodiment, each entertainment device 102 is in direct contact with each other device 102, and the chat is carried out in a peer-to-peer manner.
System 100 also enables passengers to chat in chat rooms having dedicated topics. In one embodiment, all users watching the same video content or listening to the same audio content are able to join a chat room to discuss the video or audio content simultaneously.
In addition, passengers can join chat rooms directed to specific topics.
In one embodiment (not shown), where the vessel has a real-time link to a communications network such as the Internet, a sub-menu of talk button 910 allows a user to access web-based e-mail and other Internet resources.
Activation of the read button 912 (
System 100 includes an amenities manager 116 and amenities module 104 to enable passengers to order amenities such as food, drink and shopping items through entertainment device 102 from real-time inventory on board the vessel.
Commercial operators of vessels such as aircraft and trains often offer food and beverage service to their passengers. Such meal service is typically offered on a periodic basis, for example mid-flight for airplane food service, and hourly for beverage service. A food and beverage cart is typically wheeled through the aisles of an aircraft to deliver to each passenger, taking up space and making it difficult for other passengers to move through the aircraft.
The on-board amenities system of on-board system 101 enables passengers to order the food and beverage of their choice from a real-time inventory listing, and to place the order at a time of their choosing. It also allows the aisles to remain free of service carts, since by fulfilling individual orders on demand, there is no longer any need to move through the aisles on a periodic schedule to determine whether any passenger wants any service item.
Passengers interact with amenities manager 116 through their entertainment device 102 by selecting the eat button 914 (
Once the user has selected all of the desired items and placed them into his cart, an order review and completion screen (not shown) allows the user to review the order and to submit it for fulfillment. In one embodiment, a fee is charged for some or all of the items available, and the user swipes a credit card through credit card reader 806 as part of the ordering process. Alternatively, the user may pay using cash when the order is fulfilled.
Once an order has been submitted, it appears on an order fulfillment screen 2700 of amenities module 104, an embodiment of which is illustrated in
The same approach taken with respect to food and drink is also used to enable an on-board shopping experience. When the user selects the shop button 916, a list of items available on board the vessel for purchase is provided. Each desired item can be added by the user to his cart, and at checkout, amenities module 104 notifies an attendant that a shopping order needs fulfillment. Again, amenities manager 116 tracks the available inventory of each displayed item in real time, decrementing as appropriate.
In one embodiment, entertainment device 102 can be used by a passenger to indicate a special meal type. For example, a preference configured by the user either in advance or at entertainment device 102 can specify that the user wishes to see only kosher options. In this embodiment, food listing 2600 includes only kosher products.
Kids play button 918 provides an interface for younger passengers to have an entertainment experience suitable for their age. Age-appropriate audio and video content selection options are provided as sub-menus, as described above for general video and audio selections. A user may also select children's′ games from the kids play menu.
Info/help button 922 provides a sub-menu (not shown) with links to help request features, for example with instructions on how to use the various features of entertainment device 102. In one embodiment, a real-time map is also available, showing the vessel's current location, track, and additional geographic information.
The present invention has been described in particular detail with respect to a limited number of embodiments. Those of skill in the art will appreciate that the invention may additionally be practiced in other embodiments. First, the particular naming of the components, capitalization of terms, the attributes, data structures, or any other programming or structural aspect is not mandatory or significant, and the mechanisms that implement the invention or its features may have different names, formats, or protocols. Further, the system may be implemented via a combination of hardware and software, as described, or entirely in hardware elements. Also, the particular division of functionality between the various system components described herein is merely exemplary, and not mandatory; functions performed by a single system component may instead be performed by multiple components, and functions performed by multiple components may instead performed by a single component. For example, the particular functions of synchronization module 112, amenities manager 116, authentication module 126, and so forth may be provided in many or one module.
Some portions of the above description present the feature of the present invention in terms of algorithms and symbolic representations of operations on information. These algorithmic descriptions and representations are the means used by those skilled in the entertainment system arts to most effectively convey the substance of their work to others skilled in the art. These operations, while described functionally or logically, are understood to be implemented by computer programs. Furthermore, it has also proven convenient at times, to refer to these arrangements of operations as modules or code devices, without loss of generality.
It should be borne in mind, however, that all of these and similar terms are to be associated with the appropriate physical quantities and are merely convenient labels applied to these quantities. Unless specifically stated otherwise as apparent from the present discussion, it is appreciated that throughout the description, discussions utilizing terms such as “processing” or “computing” or “calculating” or “determining” or “displaying” or the like, refer to the action and processes of a computer system, or similar electronic computing device, that manipulates and transforms data represented as physical (electronic) quantities within the computer system memories or registers or other such information storage, transmission or display devices.
Certain aspects of the present invention include process steps and instructions described herein in the form of an algorithm. It should be noted that the process steps and instructions of the present invention could be embodied in software, firmware or hardware, and when embodied in software, could be downloaded to reside on and be operated from different platforms used by real time network operating systems.
The present invention also relates to an apparatus for performing the operations herein. This apparatus may be specially constructed for the required purposes, or it may comprise a general-purpose computer selectively activated or reconfigured by a computer program stored in the computer. Such a computer program may be stored in a computer readable storage medium, such as, but is not limited to, any type of disk including floppy disks, optical disks, CD-ROMs, magnetic-optical disks, read-only memories (ROMs), random access memories (RAMs), EPROMs, EEPROMs, magnetic or optical cards, application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), or any type of media suitable for storing electronic instructions, and each coupled to a computer system bus. Furthermore, the computers referred to in the specification may include a single processor or may be architectures employing multiple processor designs for increased computing capability.
The algorithms and displays presented herein are not inherently related to any particular computer or other apparatus. Various general-purpose systems may also be used with programs in accordance with the teachings herein, or it may prove convenient to construct more specialized apparatus to perform the required method steps. The required structure for a variety of these systems will appear from the description above. In addition, the present invention is not described with reference to any particular programming language. It is appreciated that a variety of programming languages may be used to implement the teachings of the present invention as described herein, and any references to specific languages are provided for disclosure of enablement and best mode of the present invention.
Finally, it should be noted that the language used in the specification has been principally selected for readability and instructional purposes, and may not have been selected to delineate or circumscribe the inventive subject matter. Accordingly, the disclosure of the present invention is intended to be illustrative, but not limiting, of the scope of the invention.
1. A method for providing en-route services to a passenger aboard a vessel, the method comprising:
- receiving, by a computer, configuration preferences for an entertainment device aboard a vessel, the configuration preferences received from a passenger prior to embarkation aboard the vessel by the passenger;
- identifying, by a computer, the passenger aboard the vessel; and
- configuring, by the computer, an electronic entertainment device accessible by the passenger on board the vessel in accordance with the received configuration preferences.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein the vessel is an aircraft.
3. The method of claim 1 wherein the vessel is a train.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein the vessel is ship.
5. The method of claim 1 wherein the configuration preferences include privacy preferences.
6. The method of claim 1 wherein the configuration preferences include buddy list data.
7. The method of claim 1 wherein the configuration preferences are associated with a passenger account.
8. The method of claim 7 wherein identifying the passenger aboard the aircraft further comprises receiving account indicia from the passenger, and configuring the in-flight entertainment device further comprises:
- retrieving the configuration preferences associated with the account of the identified passenger; and
- configuring the in-flight entertainment device in accordance with the retrieved configuration preferences.
9. The method of claim 7 wherein the passenger account is associated with an airline affinity program.
10. A system for providing personalized content to a vessel passenger, comprising:
- a first server adapted to receive a configuration preferences for a vessel entertainment device from a passenger;
- a communications server, communicatively coupled to the first server, adapted to communicate the received configuration preferences to a vessel synchronization module;
- a vessel synchronization module adapted to receive the plurality of passenger configuration preferences from the communications server; and
- an entertainment device, adapted to receive the plurality of passenger preferences from the vessel synchronization module, and to display user interface pages personalized according to the received passenger preferences.
11. The system of claim 10 wherein the plurality of preferences includes a language preference.
12. The system of claim 10 wherein the plurality of preferences includes an audio playlist.
13. The system of claim 10 wherein the plurality of preferences includes a video playlist.
14. The system of claim 10 further comprising a seat-to-seat chat server adapted to allow the passenger to communicate with a plurality of other passengers aboard the vessel.
15. The system of claim 10 wherein the vessel is an airplane.
16. A method for providing in-flight services to airline passengers, the method comprising:
- receiving, by a computer on board an aircraft, configuration preferences for each of a plurality of passengers;
- receiving indicia of one of the passengers at an in-flight entertainment device on board the aircraft; and
- configuring a user interface of the in-flight entertainment device in accordance with the configuration preferences for the indicated passenger.
17. The method of claim 16 wherein receiving configuration preferences for each of the plurality of passengers further comprises:
- receiving a passenger manifest;
- identifying a plurality of passengers identified on the manifest for whom preference data is available; and
- retrieving the configuration preferences for each of the passengers for whom preference data is available.
18. The method of claim 17 wherein the plurality of passengers for whom preference data is available are each associated with an affinity program.
19. A method for providing in-flight services to an aircraft passenger, the method comprising:
- receiving, by an aircraft in-flight entertainment device, identification information from a passenger;
- retrieving, by the entertainment device, configuration preferences associated with the passenger; and
- automatically configuring, by the entertainment device, a user interface of the in-flight entertainment device according to the retrieved preference data.
Filed: Jan 25, 2012
Publication Date: May 31, 2012
Inventor: Charles Ogilvie (Burlingame, CA)
Application Number: 13/357,789
International Classification: H04N 21/20 (20110101); H04N 21/45 (20110101);