US 5751968 System and method for distributing multi-media presentations in a computer network

ABSTRACT – A method and a system for distributing a multi-media presentation in a computer network is provided. The method includes the steps of feeding at least one site of said computer network with a stream of data of the presentation and forming, in each site a plurality of data files, each data file including a segment of said multi-media presentation. The method further includes distributing the data files to at least one display and displaying the distributed data files.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a method and system for distributing video, audio graphic and textual information on a computer network.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Computer networks, in particular the INTERNET network, allow users operating user operated displays (UOD) connected to the network, to receive and display multi-media presentations. Usually, multimedia presentations are stored as files which are downloaded from sites of the network in which they are stored and to which they were fed from any source.

In the prior art, each multi-media file stored in a network site contains all the data of a presentation, i.e. if the multi-media presentation is a video clip of a song, the file stored in the network site includes the video, audio, graphic and textual data of the particular video clip and therefore, when retrieved by a network user, a relatively long delay exists before the user can display the presentation on his computer since the volume of data that needs to be transferred from the network site to the user is very large.

For example, if the multi-media presentation is a 660 Kbyte file, it will be transferred via a 14.4 K modem in about 12 minutes. An example of such 660 Kbyte file is a 1 minute audio file at 11 Ksamp/sec.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An object of the present invention is to provide an improved method and system for distributing multi-media presentations to users of a computer network.

Another object of the present invention is to provide substantially in real time multi-media presentations to at least one user operating a UOD connected to the network.

A further object of the present invention is to enable a user operating a UOD to selectively display portions of or the entire multi-media presentation. The user operating the UOD may display the presentation with a desired delay, to re-display portions of the presentation or to display portions of the presentation out of order.

It will be appreciated that the term multi-media refers herein to video, audio, graphic, textual, music instrument device interface (midi) or any other digital data, each taken alone or in any combination therebetween. The term display refers herein to the display of any data included in the multi media presentation.

According to an aspect of the present invention, the system enabling the selective display includes a feeding unit which feeds the multimedia presentation, a forming and distribution unit which feeds the multimedia presentation as data files including segments of the presentation and a UOD, all connected in any suitable computer network. Preferably, the data files include consecutive segments of the presentation.

According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the computer network is the INTERNET network.

According to a further aspect of the present invention, for the INTERNET network, the forming and distribution unit resides in World Wide Web (WWW) sites. The forming unit and the distribution unit may be either in the same WWW site or in a different WWW site.

According to yet another aspect of the present invention, the forming unit may be part of the feeding unit wherein the distribution unit is a HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) server in a WWW site.

According to yet another aspect of the present invention, additional distribution units located in additional sites of the WWW may retrieve the data files including the segments of the multi-media presentation from the distribution unit and distribute them to additional users employing UODs communicating with these additional sites.

One advantage of the present invention is that the communication protocol employed for connecting the UOD, the HTTP WWW server and the multi-media presentations feeding computer is a communication protocol presently used in the INTERNET, preferably a reliable TCP/IP communication protocol. TCP/IP is compatible with HTTP WWW and browsing applications used for browsing the WWW.

According to a second preferred embodiment of the present invention, the communication protocol is any suitable communication protocol, such as a non-reliable UDP communication protocol.

There is thus provided, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a method for distributing a multi-media presentation in a computer network which includes the following steps:

A. feeding at least one site of the computer network with a stream of data of the presentation;

B. forming, in each site a plurality of data files, each data file including a segment of the multi-media presentation;

C. distributing the plurality of data files to at least one display; and

D. displaying the distributed data files.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the feeding includes providing at least one parameter characterizing the segment and the forming includes forming consecutive data files, each including the segment in accordance with the at least one parameter.

Further, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the step of forming includes forming the data files as a sequence of files. Alternatively, the step of forming includes forming the data files in a cyclic fashion.

Additionally, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the steps of distributing and displaying include the step of activating an interactive display application operating to receive the distributed data files and to display them in a user selected sequence. Preferably, the user selected sequence is selected from the group which includes displaying a most current file, displaying a formerly formed file, displaying a formerly distributed file, re-displaying displayed files and displaying the files out of order. The most current file refers herein to the file most recently formed by the forming unit.

Further, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the method may include the step of selecting a time lag between the steps of feeding and forming and the steps of distributing and displaying, the time lag determined whether the display is substantially a real time display or a delayed display.

Still further, according to yet another preferred embodiment of the present invention, the step of distributing may also include the step of distributing the data files to additional distribution units operating to distribute the data files to additional displays.

According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the computer network is the INTERNET network.

There is also provided, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a method for displaying substantially in a real time a multi-media presentation which includes the steps of:

A. forming data files representing segments of the multi-media presentation; and

B. displaying the data files in a user selected sequence, the user selected sequence includes at least one of the group which includes displaying a most current file, displaying a formerly distributed file, re-displaying displayed files and displaying the files out of order.

There is further provided, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention a system for distributing a multi-media presentation in a computer network which includes:

A. a feeding unit for feeding at least one site of the computer network with a stream of data of the presentation;

B. a forming manager for forming, in each site a plurality of data files, each file including a segment of the multi-media presentation;

C. a distribution unit for distributing the plurality of data files to at least one UOD; and

D. a UOD for displaying the distributed data files.

According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the computer network is the INTERNET network and the distribution units are one or more HTTP servers in WWW sites.

There is further provided, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a method for distributing a multi-media presentation in a computer network which includes the following steps:

A. feeding at least one site of the computer network with a stream of data of the presentation;

B. forming, in each site a data file including the multi-media presentation;

C. repeating the steps of feeding and forming, thereby rewriting portions of the data of the presentation in a cyclic fashion;

D. distributing, substantially simultaneously with the steps of feeding and forming, the current data file to at least one display; and

E. displaying the distributed data file,

wherein a selectable time lag exists between the steps of distributing and displaying.

Finally, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, there are provided systems which includes units operating to carry out the steps of the methods of the present invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An object of the present invention is to provide an improved method and system for distributing multi-media presentations to users of a computer network.

Another object of the present invention is to provide substantially in real time multi-media presentations to at least one user operating a UOD connected to the network.

A further object of the present invention is to enable a user operating a UOD to selectively display portions of or the entire multi-media presentation. The user operating the UOD may display the presentation with a desired delay, to re-display portions of the presentation or to display portions of the presentation out of order.

It will be appreciated that the term multi-media refers herein to video, audio, graphic, textual, music instrument device interface (midi) or any other digital data, each taken alone or in any combination therebetween. The term display refers herein to the display of any data included in the multi media presentation.

According to an aspect of the present invention, the system enabling the selective display includes a feeding unit which feeds the multimedia presentation, a forming and distribution unit which feeds the multimedia presentation as data files including segments of the presentation and a UOD, all connected in any suitable computer network. Preferably, the data files include consecutive segments of the presentation.

According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the computer network is the INTERNET network.

According to a further aspect of the present invention, for the INTERNET network, the forming and distribution unit resides in World Wide Web (WWW) sites. The forming unit and the distribution unit may be either in the same WWW site or in a different WWW site.

According to yet another aspect of the present invention, the forming unit may be part of the feeding unit wherein the distribution unit is a HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) server in a WWW site.

According to yet another aspect of the present invention, additional distribution units located in additional sites of the WWW may retrieve the data files including the segments of the multi-media presentation from the distribution unit and distribute them to additional users employing UODs communicating with these additional sites.

One advantage of the present invention is that the communication protocol employed for connecting the UOD, the HTTP WWW server and the multi-media presentations feeding computer is a communication protocol presently used in the INTERNET, preferably a reliable TCP/IP communication protocol. TCP/IP is compatible with HTTP WWW and browsing applications used for browsing the WWW.

According to a second preferred embodiment of the present invention, the communication protocol is any suitable communication protocol, such as a non-reliable UDP communication protocol.

There is thus provided, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a method for distributing a multi-media presentation in a computer network which includes the following steps:

A. feeding at least one site of the computer network with a stream of data of the presentation;

B. forming, in each site a plurality of data files, each data file including a segment of the multi-media presentation;

C. distributing the plurality of data files to at least one display; and

D. displaying the distributed data files.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the feeding includes providing at least one parameter characterizing the segment and the forming includes forming consecutive data files, each including the segment in accordance with the at least one parameter.

Further, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the step of forming includes forming the data files as a sequence of files. Alternatively, the step of forming includes forming the data files in a cyclic fashion.

Additionally, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the steps of distributing and displaying include the step of activating an interactive display application operating to receive the distributed data files and to display them in a user selected sequence. Preferably, the user selected sequence is selected from the group which includes displaying a most current file, displaying a formerly formed file, displaying a formerly distributed file, re-displaying displayed files and displaying the files out of order. The most current file refers herein to the file most recently formed by the forming unit.

Further, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the method may include the step of selecting a time lag between the steps of feeding and forming and the steps of distributing and displaying, the time lag determined whether the display is substantially a real time display or a delayed display.

Still further, according to yet another preferred embodiment of the present invention, the step of distributing may also include the step of distributing the data files to additional distribution units operating to distribute the data files to additional displays.

According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the computer network is the INTERNET network.

There is also provided, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a method for displaying substantially in a real time a multi-media presentation which includes the steps of:

A. forming data files representing segments of the multi-media presentation; and

B. displaying the data files in a user selected sequence, the user selected sequence includes at least one of the group which includes displaying a most current file, displaying a formerly distributed file, re-displaying displayed files and displaying the files out of order.

There is further provided, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention a system for distributing a multi-media presentation in a computer network which includes:

A. a feeding unit for feeding at least one site of the computer network with a stream of data of the presentation;

B. a forming manager for forming, in each site a plurality of data files, each file including a segment of the multi-media presentation;

C. a distribution unit for distributing the plurality of data files to at least one UOD; and

D. a UOD for displaying the distributed data files.

According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the computer network is the INTERNET network and the distribution units are one or more HTTP servers in WWW sites.

There is further provided, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a method for distributing a multi-media presentation in a computer network which includes the following steps:

A. feeding at least one site of the computer network with a stream of data of the presentation;

B. forming, in each site a data file including the multi-media presentation;

C. repeating the steps of feeding and forming, thereby rewriting portions of the data of the presentation in a cyclic fashion;

D. distributing, substantially simultaneously with the steps of feeding and forming, the current data file to at least one display; and

E. displaying the distributed data file,

wherein a selectable time lag exists between the steps of distributing and displaying.

Finally, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, there are provided systems which includes units operating to carry out the steps of the methods of the present invention.

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