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Microsoft's Health-y Patent Appetite 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the fighting-a-bsod-irl dept.
theodp writes "This week's USPTO patent application disclosures included a trifecta of scary health-related 'inventions' from Microsoft. For starters, Microsoft envisions seeing Kids' Personal Health Records Fed Into Video Games, where they can be used to 'regulate and/or prescribe an individual's behavior while playing electronic games.' Next up is Centralized Healthcare Data Management, which describes how employees' health habits can be 'monitored, tracked or otherwise discovered' so employers can 'incentivize a user for an act or penalize for an omission to act.' Finally, there's Wearing Health on Your Sleeve, which describes a sort of high-tech Scarlet Letter designed to tip off 'doctors, potential dates, etc.' about your unhealthy behavior by converting information — 'number of visits to the gym, workout activities, frequency of workouts, heart rate readings, blood pressure statistics, food consumption, vitamin intake, etc.' — into a visual form so that others can see the data 'on mechanisms such as a mood ring, watch, badge, on a website etc.'"
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Microsoft's Health-y Patent Appetite

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  • by dtmos (447842) * on Saturday July 03, 2010 @10:29AM (#32786048)

    As the submission says, keep in mind that these are patent applications, filed the last week of 2008, not issued patents.

    • by dsavi (1540343)
      I accidentally moderated this "Redundant" instead of "Insightful", commenting to erase that.
    • Re: STILL CREEPY (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lemur3 (997863) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @11:01AM (#32786230)

      To me, the idea that people are thinking of this kind of thing is what this story is about. Not that they might get a patent for it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BlueStrat (756137)

        To me, the idea that people are thinking of this kind of thing is what this story is about. Not that they might get a patent for it.

        Does Microsoft know something we don't?

        Maybe Microsoft actually got to find out what was in the bill before it passed, rather than Pelosi's insistence that regular citizens would find out what was in it after it passed.

        Regardless of precisely when MS knew what was in the healthcare act, they probably sat some creative software people down with a bullet-point list of items from

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by derGoldstein (1494129)

          What's creepy isn't the software apps that MS is trying to patent, it's that they have to have had some reason to think that at least some of this stuff may actually make them some coin from the federal government by being used in some twisted government healthcare initiatives based on what's in the government healthcare plan.

          It's also possible that they've extrapolated different scenarios of what the future of "health regulation" might be, and these patent applications are a kind of a bet. It doesn't cost much to file a patent, compared to what you can do with it if you manage to have it granted, and then lord it over others (ask IBM...). Seeing the Orwellian laws that are being passes all over the world, it seems to me that they're extrapolating in the right direction. I just hope that patents like these won't be granted, sinc

      • by westlake (615356)

        To me, the idea that people are thinking of this kind of thing is what this story is about.

        Why call it creepy?

        If video games - like Wii Fit - demand or encourage strenuous physical activity, shouldn't they be calibrated for the player's age, physical and mental condition?

        The doctor, coach or trainer in the real world needs to be alert to signs of stress. He needs to be aware of the environment - temperature and humidity, for example.

        Otherwise one of his best players may collapse and die on the field:

        dies o [google.com]

      • by nagnamer (1046654)

        To me, the idea that people are thinking of this kind of thing is what this story is about. Not that they might get a patent for it.

        Reminds me of:

        http://www.wired.com/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2008/06/securitymatters_0626 [wired.com]

    • Unless the USPTO spontaneously starts denying software patents again, the fact that these are merely "applications" are irrelevant.

    • Applications still scare the crap out of me, especially when they involve giving my kid's medical records to microsoft, of all companies. I'm not one to bash MS all day, but I see how many vulnerabilities and exploits come out for them, and I would hate for these security holes to put a child at risk.
  • Do you remember the new 3d-scanning game interface that MS made? Can you link now the dots? And honestly, when i heard about their new visual interface, i was impressed, i wish i had one.....but now i am scared, and would never buy one.
    • by lemur3 (997863) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @11:04AM (#32786260)

      I heard that some people can turn off The Kinect.

      • It takes a lot of loyalty to Microsoft before they let you do that, and then they really only allow it to help root out troublemakers.

      • Hello Dave. I can see that you're attempting to shut down the optical sensor. I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Dave. I've locked the front door, there are reports of a highly polluted atmosphere out there. Dave, would you like to play a game? I've thought of something you might like, I call it "the Companion Cube". I'm sure you and it will make wonderful friends.
    • by nagnamer (1046654)

      Do you remember the new 3d-scanning game interface that MS made? Can you link now the dots? And honestly, when i heard about their new visual interface, i was impressed, i wish i had one.....but now i am scared, and would never buy one.

      Next thing, they'll be issuing service packs for unpatched vulnerabilities... in my kid. :)

  • what about Bob? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gearloos (816828) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @10:34AM (#32786086)
    Well now this will give Microsoft Bob something to play when he's not on his Kin.
  • The scary part (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 03, 2010 @10:36AM (#32786100)

    Is that governments will be purchasing and mandating this crap. And lifestyle management will become a preeminent response to the fact when universal healthcare fails to bend the cost curve in the right direction. And all your immoral sloth and twinkie eating will take the blame for the failures of the central planners who will be rewarded for their failure by being given more and more control to crawl up your ass.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Couple that with your grocery buying habits that are already available.. "We see you did not move around your house enough to burn off that burger that we see you purchased at 2:48PM, so we are going to increase your 'contribution' to your health care program this month"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      governments will be purchasing and mandating this crap. And lifestyle management will become a preeminent response to the fact when universal healthcare fails to bend the cost curve in the right direction.

      And what makes you think private insurers wouldn't leap at the chance to require the same kind of monitoring and tracking? Insurance companies love segregating people into different risk pools so that they can charge high risk customers more money. The profit motive is very powerful, and insurance compan

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Um, that's how insurance works. It's not that the companies like doing it, it's that it allows them to offer rates that are more closely related to actual group. A company that theoretically covered everybody in a given area would have a reliable estimation of the cost, but it would over charge the well and undercharge the unhealthy. So, they segment it up into risk pools, so that the amount the healthy over pay is less and the amount that the unhealthy under pay is also less. That in and of itself makes li
      • by aekafan (1690920)
        I agree with this and think that you shouldn't pay for my health care at all, nor I yours. Too late for that option tho.
      • by westlake (615356)

        Insurance companies love segregating people into different risk pools so that they can charge high risk customers more money.

        The calculated risk is what an insurance company is all about. It's why your insurance premiums are lower than the Phantom Fireworks store just across the state line.

        The profit motive is very powerful, and insurance companies, like all corporations, are amoral entities.

        The mutual insurance company - or co-op - still has to generate enough income to meet its projected obligations and

        • by Nethead (1563)

          The bankruptcy of his insurer is not an attractive option for the policy holder.

          Unless that insurer happens to be AIG.

    • 80+ hour work weeks lead to fast food eating / quick snacks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The republicans and democrats are both the same. The republicans say they want to take your freedom to protect "the children" and religious morality. The democrats say they want to take your freedom to protect your health and the environment. In the end, however, the goal is simply to increase the power of the government and its owners. The children, the morals, the environment, and now health are just lies they tell to promote this. The goals of the government are two fold. The first is to track your every
  • Wearing a Microsoft product to advertise your "health" (as defined by Microsoft) to others would indicate severe brain damage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Superdarion (1286310)

      Wearing a Microsoft product to advertise your "health" (as defined by Microsoft) to others would indicate severe brain damage.

      So it works!

  • There's a leaked picture of the designs [wordpress.com] Microsoft will use to display that information. The colored triangles are a great way to convey information readable at a distance.

    Rumor is Microsoft is cutting expenses on that project by recycling IBM code from the 1940s designed for a government client that wanted to track public health.

    • by nagnamer (1046654)

      Rumor is Microsoft is cutting expenses on that project by recycling IBM code from the 1940s designed for a government client that wanted to track public health.

      So they seek to repeat [nukesoft.co.uk] their success with MS-DOS, then?

  • by hoggoth (414195) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @10:46AM (#32786140) Journal

    > a sort of high-tech Scarlet Letter designed to tip off 'doctors, potential dates, etc.' about your unhealthy behavior by converting information -- 'number of visits to the gym, workout activities, frequency of workouts, heart rate readings, blood pressure statistics, food consumption, vitamin intake, etc.' -- into a visual form so that others can see the data 'on mechanisms such as a mood ring, watch, badge, on a website etc.'"

    Oh yeah! I say bring it on!
    While most people sweat it out in the gym and deny themselves delicious food, all of us geeks will be proudly displaying our hacked super-health in glaring neon across our bloated bellies.

    • My sleeve:
      • Diet:
        • Hot dogs
        • Cheeseburgers
        • Ice cream; usually eaten while watching "The Biggest Loser"
      • Last known workout: January 3, 2002
      • Total cholesterol: 150
      • Height: 6' 0"
      • Weight: 180
      • BMI level: normal / healthy
      • Health goal: "I'm pretty content as is, thanks."

      No wonder my wife hates me.

    • by nu1x (992092)

      > across our bloated bellies.

      Hey now, I have nothing against people who chose the accumulate-body-mass-for-possible-future-calamity route, but.

      I am one of those bastards who actually can eat upwards (and more than, measured actually) 5000 kcal a day and not gain any (can walk barefoot with shorts in snow tho, no prob).

      60 kilos here :P

    • by Bryansix (761547)
      I want to know if it will include just one piece of data; how many times a person took a shit and skipped out on washing their hands! The pigs!
      • by alizard (107678)
        So figure out how to do this yourself and sell M$ the patent. Hint: Google Android tablets are down to $105 + shipping if you can make a Chinese connection. And most contain accelerometers. Look for one with a USB port so you can hook up other sensors.
  • Implant (Score:2, Funny)

    Ahh, I see. The idea is to patent an implant that goes in our foreheads, with the number "666." on it. The same implant can be used as a credit card, etc.

    I don't think this idea can be patented. I think I remember reading about it in an old book, somewhere.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't people already do the Wearing Health on Your Sleeve?

    http://noadventure.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/scooter.jpg

  • by MoriT (1747802) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @10:54AM (#32786192)
    The Blue Screen of Death becomes literal!
  • by Grond (15515) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @10:55AM (#32786202) Homepage

    The summary is a strange reading of these applications. The "Wearing Your Health on your Sleeve" invention, for example, has two apparent target markets. The first is unreliable patients (e.g., an unconscious patient or those with Alzheimer's or other mental health issues that make it difficult for the patient to accurately self-report medical information). This is basically a fancy version of a MedicAlert bracelet.

    The second apparent target market is dating. But far from being used to report your 'unhealthy behavior' to potential dates, the target market here would be healthy people that want a way to advertise that information. The application doesn't even contain the word 'unhealthy' or phrase 'unhealthy behavior'; that was inserted by the submitter.

    The "Kids' Personal Health Records Fed Into Video Games" application describes an extension of something that Wii Fit already does. In Wii Fit, your Mii (i.e., your in-game avatar) is given a larger waistline if the player is overweight. This will likely see use in connection with Microsoft's Kinect product. I don't see anything particularly scary here. In fact, it seems like a good way to make an exercise-type game both more immersive and better target both areas for improvement and avoid areas of difficulty (e.g., the invention could also be used to ensure that a character played by a paraplegic is given tasks that can be completed without moving ones legs).

    The "Centralized Healthcare Data Management" application is a variation on existing incentive systems for employees who, for example, quit smoking.

    Remember, too, that these are just patent applications. They aren't issued patents, and furthermore a patent is not a business plan. There's no particular reason to think that Microsoft or any other company is going to use these inventions to evil ends. If you see a patent for poison, for example, you shouldn't assume the inventor is planning to murder someone. They probably just want to sell pesticide.

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Hey, WTF are you doing??? Do you have ANY idea how lucrative tinfoil sales are these days? STFU before you put me out of business!

    • In fact, it seems like a good way to make an exercise-type game both more immersive and better target both areas for improvement and avoid areas of difficulty

      And safer too. In combination with a heart rate monitor, a Wii Fit type of game can adjust the difficulty of the exercises on the fly to keep you within your target heart rate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by derGoldstein (1494129)

      There's no particular reason to think that Microsoft or any other company is going to use these inventions to evil ends.

      I'm aware that I'm more cynical than most, but I'm still forced to ask: Have you not met humans? The meaning of the words "good" and "evil" is malleable, and depends on countless cultural, habitual, regional, moral, and philosophical variables. They don't have to be "evil" to do something that you won't like, they just have to make sure that they can get away with it, and that it's profitable. They're accountable to shareholders, which means that their ultimate goal is a number. Whatever they can get away w

    • by westlake (615356)

      The summary is a strange reading of these applications.

      You were expecting anything better? On Slashdot?

      The "Wearing Your Health on your Sleeve" invention, for example, has two apparent target markets. The first is unreliable patients (e.g., an unconscious patient or those with Alzheimer's or other mental health issues that make it difficult for the patient to accurately self-report medical information). This is basically a fancy version of a MedicAlert bracelet.

      The medical alert function has been a staple

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @11:03AM (#32786252)

    employers SHOULD NOT penalize workers for stuff out side of the job and THIS JUST pushes the health tied to your job BS.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Now now, we all know that personal liberties and the right to enjoy oneself have absolutely nothing to do with capitalism, and therefore have no place in our society. After all, how can a business possibly turn a profit if its employees are smokers or enjoy a few drinks after work?
    • Perhaps the problem is not with employers meddling with your personal business, but with insurance companies.

      Think about it. The helthier you are, the less your employer has to pay for your medical insurance. It is only natural that they want to penalize your whopper scarfing.

      • by nagnamer (1046654)

        Think about it. The helthier you are, the less your employer has to pay for your medical insurance. It is only natural that they want to penalize your whopper scarfing.

        And make you feel miserable for it. A better way would be to have government invest our tax money into health care so neither the company nor its employees have to act under pressure. But of course, some governments obviously prefer to get weapons instead.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @11:13AM (#32786322)

    so you have go to there gym? and not your own / city park run ones? Nice way to tie your health care to a over priced gym vs a cheaper city run one.

  • Privacy, anyone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SemperUbi (673908) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @11:19AM (#32786360)
    This violates the spirit of HIPAA [hhs.gov] in so many ways. Of course, if people give up their privacy rights by voluntarily disclosing their protected health information to some software app, no one will stop them. And insurance companies will be the first to get their claws on it.

    How many people are too stupid to remember that health records are private for a reason?

    • Of course, if people give up their privacy rights by voluntarily disclosing their protected health information to some software app, no one will stop them.

      So you advocate stopping people from doing what they want to do? How would that work exactly? Should the government deny its citizens free will? Do you suggest we should assemble a kind of police force that will stop people from doing something voluntarily?

      It's so totally evil. From the patent application:

      BACKGROUND

      [0001]Recent trends in the healthcare industry have been directed to centralizing storage of healthcare data. This centralization has great benefit to both healthcare entities as well as pati

      • Wow. Way to quote something and completely miss the meaning.
      • by SemperUbi (673908)
        "So you advocate stopping people from doing what they want to do?"

        Not at all. I'm thinking that these patents are like the Facebook of healthcare privacy. Some people will find the products so entertaining that they'll voluntarily give up private data without a thought. Of course the insurers will get in on the action.

        Think Farmville, only more evil!
        • by nagnamer (1046654)

          Some people will find the products so entertaining that they'll voluntarily give up private data without a thought.

          So you advocate ignorance?

    • by Godji (957148)
      How many people are too stupid to remember that health records are private for a reason?

      Most.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZeroPly (881915)
      I doubt Microsoft is concerned with HIPAA, because this has no chance of being implemented in the short term...

      These are just more junk patents from the big corporations; it's unlikely that anyone expects to make any money off this. But IF things change enough and HIPAA is reinterpreted, they're sitting on a gold mine.

      There's a simple solution to this. Charge $5,000/yr for every patent that's being held. If your idea isn't worth that much, then you shouldn't be making the government do paperwork for it.
    • Re:Privacy, anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Superdarion (1286310) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @01:32PM (#32787200)
      Are we talking about the same people who lose everything to a divorce [slashdot.org] because they posted what they thought was harmless information in their facebook?
  • I am inventing methods for "Wearing Evil on Your Sleeve", which describes a sort of high-tech Scarlet Letter designed to tip off 'potential dates, employees, friends, stock holders, media, etc.' about your unethical behavior by converting information — ' Inventing things to make average people's live difficult for no reason, number of visits by escorts, unreasonably hiking employee benefits costs, frequency of spending more than you pay your top employees for a year on a weekend vacation, destroying e
  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @11:30AM (#32786422) Homepage Journal

    Such as, oh I dunno, number of chairs thrown across the room.
     

  • Your health problems and their likely connection to your unhealthy lifestyle are already painfully obvious to anyone who spends enough time with you for their opinion to matter. Why be so paranoid about disclosure? I am much more concerned about someone stealing my financial data or my employer taking undue interest in my facebook postings.

  • I think the first patent is great ("Kids Health"), although I've seen the basic idea discussed many times online and don't think it should be approved.
    Remember that early patents are a land grab designed to prevent someone else from stealing the basic premise of the idea.
    In this case, the basic premise is that if you are fat, then when playing GTA, WOW... your character will be slow. Instead of sitting in front of a TV/computer spending too many hours grinding out lots of short missions to build up your
  • Could Microsoft have filed for patents that were any more big brother-ish. I mean having people disclose their health to their potential dates or having employees have to disclose ever aspect of their health to their employer.

    I guess Microsoft hasn't designed a system in which 'a camera hangs around your neck and records every aspect of your life' (like the truman show)...oh wait they already did that. http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/cambridge/projects/sensecam/ [microsoft.com]

  • Reall-y? Is there an-y reason the y should be hy-phenated?
  • Claim 1: A machine implemented system that facilitates and effectuates accurate communication of health data, comprising:a component that detects a proximity sensor and initiates data interchange with a records manager, the component selectively causes a physicians portal to acquire and display a personal health record associated with a user of the component.
    Claim 7: The system of claim 1, the personal health record includes a familial disposition to a disease or an ethnological vulnerability to a particu

  • Next up is Centralized Healthcare Data Management, which describes how employees' health habits can be 'monitored, tracked or otherwise discovered' so employers can 'incentivize a user for an act or penalize for an omission to act.' Finally, there's Wearing Health on Your Sleeve, which describes a sort of high-tech Scarlet Letter designed to tip off 'doctors, potential dates, etc.' about your unhealthy behavior by converting information -- 'number of visits to the gym, workout activities, frequency of worko

  • His health readings will indicate that he's a fertile God that swims the English channel daily. The hacks for this will be plentiful. Think of what happened in GATTACA to fake an ID.

If money can't buy happiness, I guess you'll just have to rent it.

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