WO2001022308A2 - Computer-implemented method and system for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store - Google Patents

Computer-implemented method and system for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2001022308A2
WO2001022308A2 PCT/IL2000/000576 IL0000576W WO0122308A2 WO 2001022308 A2 WO2001022308 A2 WO 2001022308A2 IL 0000576 W IL0000576 W IL 0000576W WO 0122308 A2 WO0122308 A2 WO 0122308A2
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WO
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Prior art keywords
store
virtual
client
shopping trolley
items
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PCT/IL2000/000576
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French (fr)
Inventor
Edward Brook-Levinson
Abraham Herman
Alexander Grabelkovsky
Michael Grabelkovsky
Felix Lan
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Step2Buy Inc.
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/06Buying, selling or leasing transactions

Abstract

A computer-implemented method and system for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store and stored in a storage medium thereof, wherein a client displays a 3-dimensional image of at least part of a store showing one or more items for sale, freely and continuously navigates through the image so as to display further parts of the store each showing respective items until one of the required items is displayed and selects the required items for further investigation. This cycle is repeated as necessary until all of the required items have been selected. Data relating to the virtual store may be downloaded from a central database, typically from a website of the virtual store.

Description

Computer-implemented method and system for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to interactive e-commerce methods and system for allowing purchase of one or more items from a virtual store. In particular, it relates to a 3 -dimensional interactive shopping method and system.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Interactive shopping systems are known for allowing a user to purchase items from a virtual store over the Internet. US Patent No. 5,796,351 (Tsutomu) discloses a system for providing a user with proper information about a target exhibition object among many exhibition objects in exhibition facilities according to a user's request. The system has a database for storing information about exhibition objects, a host computer, and at least one terminal. The host computer retrieves information from the database according to the identification code of a given exhibition object. Each of the exhibition objects has a communication unit that returns an identification code in response to a request signal issued by the user. US Patent No.5,721,832 (Westrope et al.) discloses a method and apparatus for an interactive, computerized catalog system in which a customer can selectively access video and audio catalog data from a computerized catalog memory that permits a customer to peruse an entire catalog of products or services or select specific portions from specific catalogs or services and if desired place an order which is processed electronically and from which customer profile marketing data is selectively generated. US Patent No.5,053,956 (Donald et al) discloses an interactive computer system for retail transactions including a video display connected to a computer for displaying a composite display image including an object-image of a selected saleable object superimposed on a background-image of a selected background scene. An object-image storage device is connected to the computer for storing a plurality of object-image frames each of which contains a photographic or video image of a respective salable object, wherein each object-image frame is categorized with other related object-image frames according to at least one category of sales characteristic. The object-image storage means under control of said computer provides an output of a selected object-image frame to the video display in response to a corresponding object- image address input generated by the computer. A background-image storage device is connected to the computer for storing a plurality of background-image frames each of which contains an image representation of a respective background scene, wherein each background-image frame is selectable by an individual background- image address, and wherein the background-image storage device under control of the computer provides an output of a selected background-image frame to the video display in response to a corresponding background-image address input generated by the computer.

US Patent No. 5,664,111 (Nahan et al.) discloses a computerized, interactive system and method of electronically executing transactions with a preprogrammed main computer having data and image storage and retrieval equipment. A plurality of electronic images of works of art which are for sale are created by at least one listing dealer and stored on the storage equipment associated with the main computer. Data is input about each stored image and input data is associated with each corresponding stored image. A plurality of preprogrammed intelligent terminals each having data storage and retrieval equipment, at least one display screen and at least one input device, located at at least one listing dealer location and at at least one buying dealer location communicate with the main computer. Search criteria are input through the intelligent terminals for selecting at least one of the stored electronic images for review. Selected images and corresponding data are communicated to the intelligent terminals and at least a portion of the selected electronic images are displayed. A reservation on at least one of the displayed electronic images can be made to prevent the completion of a sale transaction involving the artwork corresponding to the selected reserved electronic image. An indication of the reserve status of the work is displayed in conjunction with the display of the reserved work on any of the intelligent terminals. A purchase order can be input on the intelligent terminals to transact a purchase of the artwork corresponding to the electronic image subject to the purchase order. Instructions to complete the purchase are automatically generated and communicated to the intelligent terminals corresponding to the appropriate listing dealer and the appropriate buying dealer.

US Patent No. 5,825,881 (Colvin) discloses a public network merchandising system for conducting commerce over a large public network such as the Internet. The system facilitates communications between a merchant, a customer, and a bank or credit card processor.

US Patent No. 5,717,923 (Dedrick) discloses a method and apparatus for dynamically customizing electronic information to individual end users

US Patent No. 5,383,111 (Homma et al.) discloses a visual merchandizing (VMD) control method and system A merchandising system for conducting a control of article display positions that are generally changed by the customers includes a method of obtaining article display positions based on the present display state. In this system, when selecting coordinate items to be suitably combined with an article, the display positions thereof can be easily determined, which advantageously helps the customer to search the store or floor for the desired items.

WO 9804984 (Efrat et al.) discloses a system for linking information to and accessing information from a video. A hotspot can be defined in a frame of a video. The hotspot can be tracked in other frames of the video. Also, the hotspot can be linked to a target. When the video is played, the hotspot can be actuated and the corresponding target executed. This technology is used by Veon, Inc. in their virtual store shown on their Website http://www.veon.com/sohitions/step1 .html and subsequent pages in the same site demonstrating a virtual shopping experience where a customer can browse products in the aisle of a store, allowing the viewer to start, stop and interrupt the tour at any time and to navigate the store for particular products by pointing and clicking with a mouse or remote control device. Product information is displayed and the user can explore URLs or database information to learn more about the product functionality, assembly and so on. On-the-fly promotions are presented via a promotional incentive banner or special offer to influence the purchase decision. Finally, the system allows for product purchase using secure e- transactions in known manner.

In such a system, the customer navigation is limited by a predetermined linear scenario, which precludes the possibility for arbitrary customer displacements relative to the displayed products. As a result, the experience of the virtual customer in the Veon e-store differs significantly from that of a real customer in a non-virtual store. Specifically, whilst in a regular store, the customer can freely navigate her or his shopping trolley along the aisles in a completely non- determined and arbitrary fashion, this is not possible in the Veon store. Rather, there is presented a 3-d image of a store and the customer clicks on a subject of interest, such as a particular shelf, product and so on. The displayed image may possibly include a film sequence of photographic images. An enlarged image is now displayed showing the selected subject allowing selection of a product. Thus, when it is required now to go to a different part of the store which is not currently displayed, the customer must first go back to the complete image in order to be able to click on the desired store section. This is inconvenient and results in time- consuming processing which merely serves to present what amounts to an intermediate image of the complete store. By the same token, it is not possible for the customer to navigate to a specific location of the entire store since all coordinates are relative to the displayed image only. Furthermore, the viewing angle of the customer relative to products in the Veon store is limited, thus not permitting the customer to look at and approach the products at arbitrary angles.

Yet a further problem associated with prior art systems is that the bandwidth of networks available at present limits the quantity of graphic resources which can be provided for delivering the visual presentation to the customer's terminal. In a typical scenario, where a customer accesses the virtual store through the Internet, most of the graphic and database resources are remote to the customer and frames of graphic data are downloaded from a web server to the client machine on-the-fly, as required. Such graphic data is, of course, normally transferred in compressed format and is decompressed by the web browser resident on the client machine. This notwithstanding, the rate at which data can be transferred to the client from the web server is limited and the processing required to allow free navigation in real time is prohibitive. Much effort is being made in Internet-related graphic applications to transfer the graphic data ahead of time to the client so that the bulk of the processing is, in fact, performed locally by the client machine. This, of course, overcomes bandwidth limitations and gives the client the impression that the overall system response is higher than it actually is. Such approaches, utilizing pre-fetching of data, are based on prediction of a client's action and are therefore not properly commensurate with absolute free navigation. Put another way, free navigation by the customer will frequently require the downloading of graphic data different to that which was pre-fetched from the web server and, in this case, the problems associated with bandwidth restriction and limited processing remain unresolved. It will further be appreciated that limited bandwidth capacity militates against any possibility of downloading large quantities of graphic, or other, data thus again militating against the possibility of moving the processing burden from the web server to the client machine.

Free navigation er se is available commercially in a large number of games programs: both in commercially obtainable games and in software designed for the graphics programmer to develop his or her own applications. For example, US Patent No. 5,368,484 entitled "Vehicle simulator with realistic operating feedback" (Copperman et al.) and assigned to Atari Games Corporation discloses a driver training system for a user of a simulated vehicle. The system includes input devices for controlling the simulated vehicle, a video display having three dimensional graphics, a computer, modeling software for determining position information based on the input devices, atmospheric effects software to simulate time-of-day and weather conditions, and realistic operating feedback software for simulating on the input devices the feedback normally experienced with operating the vehicle. The system includes a low frequency speaker mounted on an enclosure adjacent to the simulation user's seat through which road feel cues such as hitting an object are transmitted to the user in response to signals received from the computer. Further included is a system for simulating the feel to the user of anti-lock brakes on a brake pedal in response to signals received by the computer.

A web site providing reference to commercially available 3 -dimensional graphics software engines and books supplying details thereof may be found at http://cg.cs.ni-ber1in.de/~ki/3de1_26203_spec_bnnks.htm1. A good example of suitable software is provided by is Conitec (http://www.cnnitec.cnm/vgtinfo.hlm) who offer a Virtual Game Toolkit that is a commercial Doom engine and VR toolkit for PCs that allows a programmer to develop adventure, action or role playing games based on an event controlled script language. A demonstration may be downloaded from ftp://x2fTp.oiihi.fi/piih/msdns/progTamming/ack/acknex.7ip. The graphics includes:

• Non-orthogonal walls, variable level floors/ceilings, tilted floors and ceilings.

• Rooms above rooms. • Movable and rotatable room parts.

• Light source plus ambient shading, distance cueing, fogging.

• Looking up/down via

Figure imgf000008_0001

• Transparent and animated textures.

• Animated 2D sprites. • 320x200, 320x240 or 320x400 Pixels in 256 Colors on standard VGA and SVGA support.

• Sound and music support, distance-dependent volume control.

• Each wall, region, thing or actor is a state machine with event- controlled behavior.

• Support of 3D polygonal actors.

• Import of Quake MDL 3D objects.

• Landscape editor WED with integrated game compiler, WRUN interpreter and runtime module. • Stereo sound support and CD- Audio support.

No attempt appears to have been made to exploit such techniques for an online virtual store, notwithstanding the fact that such 3-d graphics techniques have been available for several years: at least as long as virtual stores on the Internet. In particular, no such attempt has been made to display an on-line virtual store such as that used by Veon, Inc using a 3-d graphics engine. The reason for will be clear from the foregoing discussion of the Veon store, which as noted above is based on the technology described in WO 9804984 (Efrat et al). Such an approach is based on partitioning the store into a sub-image centered around a selected "hot spot" which is clicked by the user. Thus, movement from one location to another is necessarily discontinuous and "jerky" and precludes direct selection of an area that is currently off-screen, for the reasons noted above. There is certainly no motivation to one of average skill in the art reading either the disclosure of WO 9804984 or accessing the Veon, Inc. web site to consider substituting the technology described in WO 9804984 by a 3-d graphics engine, since the two technologies are mutually exclusive. Thus it is that in spite of the proliferation of 3-d graphics simulation software and the ever-increasing interest in e-commerce, there has been no suggestion to combine the two. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved interactive 3- D e-shopping system allowing for free navigation by the customer through a virtual store. It is a particular object of the invention to provide such a system suitable for operation by a user with minimal computer skills.

These objects are realized in accordance with a broad aspect of the invention by a computer-implemented method for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store and stored in a storage medium thereof, the method comprising the following steps carried out by a client: (a) displaying a 3-dimensional image of at least part of a store showing one or more items for sale; characterized by:

(b) freely and continuously navigating through said image so as to display further parts of the store each showing respective items until one of the required items is displayed,

(c) selecting the required items for further investigation, and

(d) repeating steps (b) and (c) as necessary until all of the required items have been selected.

Thus, in accordance with the invention there is generated at a client work station a 3-D image of a virtual store comprising trading halls with walls, doors, floor and ceiling; shelves for placing products thereon and forming aisles for client navigation; images of store attendants, advertisements in the form of transparent and opaque posters; animations; and visible and invisible light sources for illuminating the store. Also provided are simple means for allowing navigation through the aisles of the virtual store along the shelves at a pace comparable to that of a real shopping experience. Such navigation may be effected via a joystick, keyboard or by means of verbal instructions.

The system allows the client to stop navigation at any point in the virtual store, to change his or her orientation relative to the virtual store aisles, shelves and products, both vertically and horizontally and with unrestricted angular deviation, to approach or withdraw from any graphic object, be it an aisle, door, wall, shelf or product and to allow selection of a product for placement into a shopping trolley.

The system further allows a plan of the virtual store to be presented displaying thereon a marker showing the client's current location and allowing the client to jump from one department of the virtual store to another.

The shopping trolley is embedded within the virtual store image, thus giving the client the impression of actually being inside the virtual store.

Preferably, data relating to a selected item is extracted from a product database and displayed in association with the shopping trolley. Such information may be displayed in a distinct area of the display screen or in a special display unit mounted on and associated with the shopping trolley. For example, the display may be mounted on the handlebar of the shopping trolley and, in addition to displaying product information, may also be used to show other information such as advertisements, discounts, bonuses and so on.

In order to allow for faster processing and to render the system independent of bandwidth limitations, the store database is preferably stored locally at the client as is the navigation program so that, in effect, the only on-line communication required between the client and the virtual store is when one or more selected items are to be purchased. Once such a purchase has been made, client details as well as an inventory of the purchased items are stored for future reference in association with the virtual store and this information may be used during subsequent sessions to download from the web server to the client data that is of particular interest to the client based on the client's profile and other personal preferences derived from preceding sessions. Likewise, any changes to the store database may be made to a local copy thereof stored on the client machine by transferring to the client incremental data only based on the date of a previous session of the same client recorded at the virtual store. By such means, updates to the product database since a previous session may be quickly reflected at the client machine well within bandwidth limitations of current communication channels. Other objects and features of the invention will become apparent from the detailed description of some preferred embodiments, which now follows.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In order to understand the invention and to see how it may be carried out in practice, a preferred embodiment will now be described, by way of non-limiting example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 is a pictorial representation of a computer-implemented virtual shopping trolley for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store in a virtual shopping mall; Fig. 2 is a pictorial representation of the shopping trolley shown in Fig. 1 when selecting one or more required items from a specific virtual store in the virtual shopping mall;

Fig. 3 is a block diagram showing functionally a system according to the invention including a virtual store and a virtual shopping trolley; Fig. 4 is a block diagram showing functionally the principal components in the virtual store of Fig. 3;

Fig. 5 is a flow diagram summarizing operation of the virtual store; Fig. 6 is a block diagram showing functionally the principal components in the virtual shopping trolley of Fig. 3; and Fig. 7 is a flow diagram summarizing operation of the virtual shopping trolley.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Fig. 1 shows a computer-implemented virtual shopping mall depicted generally as 10 including a plurality of virtual stores, three of which are referenced 11, 12 and 13 all displayed in 3-d on a display device 14. A shopper 15 operates a computer having a keyboard 16 and a pointing device, such as a mouse 17 or joystick, constituting selection devices, (not shown) for selecting one of the stores for subsequent selection of specific items therein. Selection of a desired store may be effected either by typing at the keyboard a unique identifier of the required store, or alternatively and more simply by pointing the mouse to the required store and clicking on the left mouse button. The displayed image of the virtual shopping mall and stores as well as specific items in a particular store are managed by a graphics engine residing in the shopper's computer and responsive to a 3-d graphics database stored therein.

Fig. 2 shows part of a computer-implemented virtual store depicted generally as 20 including a plurality of shelves 21 displayed in 3-d on the display device 14 and carrying items 22. The shopper 15 selects an item 22 for possible purchase, using either the keyboard 16 or the mouse. The selected item then appears inside a shopping trolley 23 having associated therewith a handlebar 24 on which there is mounted a display panel 25. Product data pertaining to the selected item is extracted from a database for display in the display panel 25. It will be understood that the display panel 25 is optional and the product data can instead be displayed on an area of the display device 14 overlying the representation of the store.

The displayed product data includes descriptive information about the product as well as unit cost, weight (where applicable) and cost. The descriptive information may also include ingredients as well as health warnings and other notifications, e.g. unsuitable for diabetics, suitable for vegetarians and the like. If the selected item addresses the shopper's requirements, she can verify selection by clicking the left mouse button. Alternatively, she can reject it by clicking the right mouse button.

It will be understood that this mode of operation is representative only and other equivalent approaches are contemplated: these being merely design choices well within the competence of one of average skill in the computer programming arts. For example, merely directing the mouse towards an item displayed on the shelf may be adapted to display product data without, at this stage, placing the item in the shopping trolley, this being done only when the shopper confirms the selection. Other modifications are also feasible. Other items may be similarly selected by controlling the joystick so as to allow totally free and unrestricted navigation through the store, so as to present different store sections. Successive store sections may be contiguous but do not have to be since the graphics engine is responsive to the joystick control for extracting display data from the 3 -dimensional graphics database for presentation on the display device 14. Thus, a plan of the virtual store may be presented on the display device 14 having displayed thereon a marker showing the client's current location and allowing the shopper to jump from one department of the virtual store to another. This allows a section of the store to be selected, which is "off-screen". Alternatively, the shopper 15 can direct the marker using the pointing device to a displayed section of the virtual store: but in either case, the selected section of the store clearly need not be contiguous with the previously displayed section. Such an approach allows genuine free and unrestricted navigation by the shopper through the store according to her individual fancy and avoids the need for pre-program- ming the shopper's route through the store, so common with hitherto proposed online stores. This feature affords the shopper a much more realistic shopping experience since it allows reproduction of a typical scenario where the shopper moves from one section to a remote section and suddenly remembers that she has forgotten something in a previous section, thus requiring her to go back to the earlier section. Such a scenario clearly cannot be programmed ahead of time and can only be faithfully reproduced if free navigation through the store by the shopper is provided.

Once all items have been selected, they may be purchased by sending an order to the virtual store in a manner similar to that disclosed in above-mentioned US Patent No.5,721,832 (Westrope et al). The manner in which items are actually purchased and paid for is not itself a feature of the present invention, which is concerned only with the interaction between a virtual store and shopping trolley so as to provide the shopper with a realistic shopping experience.

Fig. 3 shows functionally a system 30 according to the invention including a virtual store 31 connected via a data communication channel 32 to a virtual shopping trolley 33. The communication channel 32 can be a telephone line allowing for modem communication between the virtual store 31 and the shopping trolley 33. Most typically, communication is made through the Internet.

Fig. 4 shows functionally a detail of the virtual store 31 , whilst Fig. 5 is a flow diagram summarizing operation thereof. The virtual store 31 comprises a processor 34 coupled to a storage medium 35 having stored therein a product database of all items currently stocked in the virtual store. The product database includes data representative of an identity and unit price of each item, as well as other descriptive information, as explained above. A communications port 36 is coupled to the processor 34 and is capable of coupling to the virtual shopping trolley 33 via the communication channel 32 for receiving from the virtual shopping trolley 33 a request to connect and an identification of the virtual shopping trolley. A data transfer unit 37 is coupled to the processor 34 and to the storage medium 35 for extracting therefrom data representative of a respective 3 -dimensional image of at least a part of the store showing one or more items for sale for adding to the virtual shopping trolley 33 and downloading via the communication channel to the virtual shopping trolley.

The data transfer unit 37 is adapted to download from the storage medium 35 to the virtual shopping trolley 33 a mobile program 38 for permitting unrestricted navigation by the virtual shopping trolley 33 through the image of the store. The mobile program may be a Java applet or an Active X module, operating in conjunction with a net browser on the shopper's computer in known manner. Java is a trademark of Sun Microsystems, Inc. This may downloaded each time the virtual shopping trolley connects to the virtual store, so as to allow updates to the mobile program to be correctly reflected at the virtual shopping trolley. In order to allow for fast response time, the graphics database and the product database should be stored locally on the shopper's computer. Owing to bandwidth limitations, it is impractical to download these databases from the virtual store to the client. It is equally impractical to require remote real-time access by the shopping trolley 33 to the storage medium 35 owing to the volume of graphics data which would need to be downloaded and the associated processing overhead. The processor 34 is therefore responsive to information characterizing the shopper and is programmed to:

(a) store in the storage medium the identification of the virtual shopping trolley 33 and data representative of a current date, and

(b) check whether the virtual shopping trolley 33 has made a previous connection and, if so, download to the virtual shopping trolley via the data communication channel 32 incremental data relating to changes in the database since the previous connection by the virtual shopping trolley to the virtual store.

In order further to minimize processing and data transfer times, the processor 34 may be further adapted to download to the virtual shopping trolley 33 a previous purchase order to serve as a basis for selection of items, and store the purchase order in the storage medium 35. Thus, if the shopper has indicated, for example, that she has certain food restrictions, this may be used to prevent irrelevant data from being transferred. In order to allow the virtual store to take the shopper's preferences into account, the processor is adapted to:

(a) check whether the virtual shopping trolley has made a previous connection and, if not download to the virtual shopping trolley a questionnaire for determining at least one client preference,

(b) receive from the virtual shopping trolley data representative of at least one client preference,

(c) store the at least one client preference in the storage medium, and

(d) download a reduced inventory of items according to the at least one client preference.

Although as noted above, selection and processing are preferably performed using a local version of the product and graphics databases stored on the shopper's computer, the invention contemplates the possibility of remote data extraction where bandwidth restrictions allow for this. The processor may then be adapted to: (a) receive data from the shopper relating to a required item to be selected, and

(b) extract from the database the respective 3-dimensional image of the store showing the selected item for downloading to the virtual shopping trolley.

In order to afford an even more realistic shopping experience, the processor is further adapted to:

(a) associate a respective event with different locations in the virtual store, and (b) carry out the respective event if the client navigates to a location having the event associated therewith. For example, at least one of the events may be downloading information to the virtual shopping trolley. Such information may include data representative of a vocalized message, or it may relate to a promotion. By such means, when the shopper moves the shopping trolley to a specific part of the store showing, for example, dairy products, there may be vocalized a special offer relating to purchase of milk or cheese. Such promotions may be vocal and may also include downloading graphic notices showing special offers.

In order to allow for the purchase of selected items, the processor is further adapted to receive and process a purchase order of the selected items from the virtual shopping trolley. The purchase order thus received may be stored in the storage medium and serve as a template for subsequent orders.

Fig. 6 shows functionally a detail of the virtual shopping trolley 33, and Fig. 7 is a flow diagram summarizing operation thereof. The virtual shopping trolley 33 comprises a processor 40, and a display device 41 coupled to the processor 40 for displaying a 3-dimensional image of at least part of a store showing one or more items for sale. A storage medium 42 is coupled to the processor 40 and stores a program for freely and continuously navigating through the displayed image so as to display further parts of the store each showing respective items until one of the required items is displayed. A selection device 43 is coupled to the processor 40 for selecting the required items for further investigation.

Stored within the storage medium 42 is a database of all items currently stocked in the virtual store, the database including data identifying each item and a unit price thereof. The processor 40 is adapted to extract from the database at least some of the data relating to the selected item for display on the display device 41 and, as noted above, is adapted to allow de-selection of the item.

As explained above, it is preferable for the database to be stored locally so as to speed data extraction and processing. To this end, a previous version of the database is stored in the storage medium 42, and the processor 40 is adapted to:

(a) connect to a remote storage medium of the virtual store via a communication channel,

(b) upload to the remote storage medium an identification for identifying the virtual shopping trolley, (c) download via the data communication channel incremental data relating to changes in the database since a previous connection by the virtual shopping trolley to the virtual store, and (d) update the previous version of the database according to the downloaded incremental data. The storage medium 42 may be a hard disk to which an initial copy of the product and graphics databases are downloaded though the Internet. Alternatively, it may be a portable data carrier such as a CD-ROM. In such case, incremental downloaded from the virtual store is stored on the hard disk and serves as the reference point for the next session in order to determine what incremental data must be downloaded.

When the virtual shopping trolley 33 is connected to the virtual store through the Internet, the virtual shopping trolley 33 includes a browser 44 for downloading the navigation program 46 from the storage medium 35 in the virtual store (constituting a remote storage medium). The navigation program 46 is a mobile code processor for enabling unrestricted navigation by the client through the image of the store section. In such an embodiment, the virtual shopping trolley is a program run on a client connected to a web server and the virtual store is a program run on the web server. In the appended claims, the term "client" is used in preference to "shopping trolley" in accordance with the normal distinction in

5 Internet literature between a machine and the user at the machine.

The processor 40 is further adapted to upload to the remote storage medium 35 data characterizing at least one client preference. This can relate to specific dietary restrictions, for example, and can be used to ensure that only food products conforming to these restrictions are accessible to the shopper.

10 The shopping trolley 33 may itself serve as the selection device so that by directing the shopping trolley to a required item, data relating to the item is extracted from the product database and displayed. The processor 40 is thus adapted to:

(a) restrictions display an image of a shopping trolley for pushing by the 15 client through the displayed image of the store,

(b) identify an item pointed to by the trolley,

(c) access the database to extract the data relating to the identified item, and

(d) display the data relating to the item pointed to by the trolley. Alternatively or additionally, the keyboard 16 may serve as an input device

20 47 coupled to the computer for inputting data relating to a required item to be selected. In this case, the processor 40 is adapted to:

(a) access the database so as to determine in which part of the store the selected item is stored, and

(b) display the respective image of the appropriate part of the store showing 25 the required item so as to allow selection thereof.

The processor 40 may be further adapted to:

(a) associate a respective event with different locations in the virtual store, and

(b) carry out the respective event if the shopper navigates to a location 30 having the event associated therewith. The event may be a store promotion, for example, and information relating to the event may be displayed to the shopper or vocalized and played by a loudspeaker 47 coupled to the processor 40 and being responsive to the event for vocalizing information to the shopper. Upon selection and authorization of items, the processor may be further adapted to compile a purchase order of the selected items for submission to the virtual store. The purchase order may be stored in the storage medium 42 to serve as a template for subsequent orders. It will be appreciated, however, that the purchasing of selected items is neither mandatory nor a feature of the invention. Specifically, just as in real life shoppers frequently browse through a store merely to gauge product availability and prices, so too the invention allows selection of items for this purpose alone, without necessarily requiring that they be purchased.

It will be appreciated that modifications may be effected to the manner in which data is presented to the virtual shopping trolley whilst remaining true to the essence of the invention, which resides in the ability to freely navigate through the store image. Thus, for example, de-selection of items may be done after all items have been selected; information may be displayed graphically and, in addition, or instead textually using modern GUI tools such as combo and list boxes. Other such changes will be apparent to those of average skill in the art without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.

Likewise, whilst the system hardware has been described with particular reference to a computer-implemented system, it should be understood that the term "computer" is not restricted to any one type of client machine. Within the context of the description and appended claims, the terms "computer" and "client machine" embrace any suitable client machine having at least data processing and display facility such as a PC, hand-held computer, mobile telephone, TV set top box having processing capability, and so on.

In the case that the client shops via a TV set top box, access to the virtual store can be via CATV. Much effort is being directed to the use of CATV for downloading data of a non-TV related matter, in particular for providing Internet users to the large population of potential surfers who are neither computer nor Internet literate. One problem is doing so relates to the limited bandwidth of cable TV, which is frequently used to near capacity in the effort to carry as many channels as possible, particularly in view of the increasing competition between CATV providers. Such bandwidth-related problems can be eliminated by using satellite communication. In either case, television techniques allows the incremental database data to be broadcast on a dedicated channel at predetermined and advertised times of day.

Thus, within the context of the description and appended claims, the term communication channel can be any channel allowing data communication and is certainly not intended to encompass only conventional Internet channels. Indeed, as has been noted above, any distinction between Internet communication channels and other types of data communication channels is becoming increasingly fuzzy and is likely to become even more so, as conventional telephone and entertainment channels are used to provide Internet access. Similarly, whilst in the preferred embodiment, the virtual store is an Internet store, it is clear that it need not be connected to the Internet. Thus, in the case where data is broadcast via CATV, for example, a client machine can tune in to the dedicated channel at the appropriate time to download the incremental database data. In the case where bandwidth considerations are not important, the complete database can be broadcast and stored at the client machine. Such broadcasts can be done in the middle of the night, when speed is of no importance to the client and can, of course, be activated by means of a preset clock similar to that used in VCR machines, for example. Once the data is stored, communication between the client and the virtual store may be made through the appropriate TV channel via CATV or satellite.

It will also be understood that both the virtual store and the virtual shopping trolley according to the invention may be a suitably programmed computer. Likewise, the invention contemplates a computer program being readable by a computer for executing the method of the invention. The invention further contemplates a machine-readable memory tangibly embodying a program of instructions executable by the machine for executing the method of the invention.

In the method claims that follow, alphabetic characters used to designate claim steps are provided for convenience only and do not imply any particular order of performing the steps.

Claims

CLAIMS:
1. A computer-implemented method for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store and stored in a storage medium thereof, the method comprising the following steps carried out by a client: (a) displaying a 3-dimensional image of at least part of a store showing one or more items for sale; characterized by:
(b) freely and continuously navigating through said image so as to display further parts of the store each showing respective items until one of the required items is displayed,
(c) selecting the required items for further investigation, and
(d) repeating steps (b) and (c) as necessary until all of the required items have been selected.
2. The method according to Claim 1, further including after step (c): i) accessing a database of all items currently stocked in the virtual store, said database including data identifying each item and unit price thereof, ii) extracting from the database at least some of said data relating to the selected item, iii) displaying at least some of said data; and iv) allowing de-selection of the item.
3. The method according to Claim 1 or 2, further including:
(e) storing a basic version of the database locally at the client,
(f) connecting via a data communication channel to the remote storage medium of the virtual store,
(h) uploading via the data communication channel to the remote storage medium an identification for identifying the client, (i) downloading via the data communication channel incremental data relating to changes in the database since a previous connection by the client to the virtual store, and (j) updating the basic version of the database according to the downloaded incremental data.
4. The method according to Claim 1 to 3, further including:
(k) downloading from the remote storage medium a mobile code program for enabling unrestricted navigation by the client through the image of the store section.
5. The method according to any one of Claims 2 to 4, further including:
(1) uploading to the remote storage medium data characterizing at least one client preference.
6. The method according to any one of Claims 2 to 5, further including: (m) upon selection of an item in step (c), displaying data related to the selected item.
7. The method according to Claim 2 to 6, further including:
(n) displaying an image of a shopping trolley for pushing by the client through the displayed image of the store, and (o) displaying in association with the shopping trolley said data relating to the selected item.
8. The method according to any one of Claims 2 to 7, further including: (p) displaying an image of a shopping trolley for pushing by the client through the displayed image of the store, (q) identifying an item pointed to by the trolley, (r) accessing the database to extract the data relating to said item, and
(s) displaying said data relating to the item pointed to by the trolley.
9. The method according to any one of the Claims 2 to 7, further including:
(s) inputting data relating to a required item to be selected, (t) accessing the database so as to determine in which part of the store the selected is stored, and (u) displaying the respective image of said part of the store showing the required item so as to allow selection thereof. 5
10. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, further including:
(q) associating a respective event with different locations in the virtual store, and (r) carrying out the respective event if the client navigates to a location 10 having the event associated therewith.
11. The method according to Claim 10, wherein at least one of the events is displaying information to the client.
12. The method according to Claim 10, wherein at least one of the events is vocalizing information to the client.
15 13. The method according Claim 11 or 12, wherein the information relates to a promotion.
14. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, further including:
(t) displaying an image of a shopping trolley for pushing by the client 20 through the displayed image of the store, and
(u) upon selection of an item in step (c), displaying an image of the selected item in the shopping trolley.
15. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, further including:
25 (v) submitting a purchase order to the virtual store of the selected items.
16. The method according to Claim 15, further including:
(w) storing the purchase order to serve as a template for subsequent orders.
17. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the virtual store is part of a shopping complex allowing remote unrestricted navigation
30 through constituent stores therein.
18. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein: in step (a) a plan of the virtual store and a marker showing a current location of the client are displayed, and in step (b) the client jumps from one part of the virtual store to another. 5
19. A computer-implemented method for providing remote selection of one or more required items from a virtual store over a data communication channel, the method comprising the following steps carried out via a storage medium associated with the virtual store:
(a) maintaining a database of all items currently stocked in the virtual store, 10 said database including data representative of an identity and unit price of each item,
(b) receiving from the client a request to connect and a client identification, and
(c) downloading to the client via the data communication channel data 15 representative of a respective 3-dimensional image of at least a part of the store showing one or more items for sale for selection by the client.
20. The method according to Claim 19, further including:
(d) downloading to the client a mobile program for permitting unrestricted navigation by the client through the image of the store.
20 21. The method according to Claim 19 or 20, wherein following step (b) there are further included the steps of: i) storing the client identification and data representative of a current date, and ii) checking whether the client has made a previous connection and, 25 if so, downloading to the client via the data communication channel incremental data relating to changes in the database since the previous connection by the client to the virtual store.
22. The method according to Claim 21 , further including: iii) downloading to the client a previous purchase order to serve as a 30 basis for selection of items, and iv) storing the purchase order.
23. The method according to Claim 19, wherein following step (b) there are further included: i) checking whether the client has made a previous connection and, if not downloading to the client a questionnaire for determining at least one client preference, ii) receiving from the client data representative of at least one client preference, iii) storing the at least one client preference, and iv) downloading a reduced inventory of items according to the at least one client preference.
24. The method according Claim 19, further including:
(s) receiving data relating to a required item to be purchased, and
(t) extracting from the database the respective 3-dimensional image of the store showing the required item for downloading to the client.
25. The method according to any one of Claims 19 to 24, further including: (u) associating a respective event with different locations in the virtual store, and (v) carrying out the respective event if the client navigates to a location having the event associated therewith.
26. The method according to Claim 25, wherein at least one of the events is downloading information to the client.
27. The method according to Claim 26, wherein the information includes data representative of a vocalized message.
28. The method according Claim 26 or 27, wherein the information relates to a promotion.
29. The method according to any one of Claims 19 to 28, further including:
(w) receiving and processing a purchase order of the selected items from the client.
30. The method according to Claim 29, further including:
(x) storing the purchase order to serve as a template for subsequent orders.
31. The method according to any one of Claims 19 to 30, wherein the virtual store is part of a shopping complex allowing remote unrestricted navigation through constituent stores therein.
32. A computer-implemented virtual shopping trolley (33) for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store (31), said virtual shopping trolley comprising: a processor (40), a display device (41) coupled to the processor for displaying a 3- dimensional image of at least part of a store showing one or more items for sale, a storage medium (42) coupled to the processor, a program stored (46) in said storage medium for freely and continuously navigating through said image so as to display further parts of the store each showing respective items until one of the required items is displayed, and a selection device (43) coupled to the processor for selecting the required items for further investigation.
33. The virtual shopping trolley according to Claim 32, further including: a database stored within said storage medium of all items currently stocked in the virtual store, said database including data identifying each item and a unit price thereof; the processor being adapted to extract from the database at least some of said data relating to the selected item for display on the display device and being adapted to allow de-selection of the item.
34. The virtual shopping trolley according to Claim 32 or 33, wherein a previous version of the database is stored in said storage medium, and the processor is adapted to:
(a) connect to a remote storage medium of the virtual store via a communication channel (32), (b) upload to the remote storage medium an identification for identifying the virtual shopping trolley,
(c) download via the data communication channel incremental data relating to changes in the database since a previous connection by the virtual
5 shopping trolley to the virtual store, and
(d) update the previous version of the database according to the downloaded incremental data.
35. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of Claims 32 to 34, wherein the storage medium is a portable data carrier. 10
36. The virtual shopping trolley according to any of Claims 32 to 35, further including: a browser (44) for downloading from a remote storage medium a mobile code processor for enabling unrestricted navigation by the client through the image of the store section. 15
37. The virtual shopping trolley according to Claim 34 or 36, wherein the processor is further adapted to upload to the remote storage medium data characterizing at least one client preference.
38. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of Claims 33 to 37, wherein the processor is responsive to selection of an item for displaying data
20 related to the selected item.
39. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of Claims 33 to 38, wherein the processor is further adapted to display an image of a shopping trolley for pushing by the client through the displayed image of the store, and to display in association with the shopping trolley said data relating to the selected item.
25 40. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of Claims 33 to 39, wherein the processor is further adapted to:
(e) display an image of a shopping trolley for pushing by the client through the displayed image of the store,
(f) identify an item pointed to by the trolley,
30 (g) access the database to extract the data relating to said item, and (h) display said data relating to the item pointed to by the trolley.
41. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of the Claims 33 to
39, further including an input device (47) coupled to the computer for inputting data relating to a required item to be selected; 5 the processor being further adapted to:
(i) access the database so as to determine in which part of the store the selected item is stored, and (j) display the respective image of said part of the store showing the required item so as to allow selection thereof. 10
42. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of Claims 32 to 41, wherein the processor is further adapted to:
(k) associate a respective event with different locations in the virtual store, and (1) carry out the respective event if the client navigates to a location having 15 the event associated therewith.
43. The virtual shopping trolley according to Claim 42, wherein the display device is responsive to at least one of the events for displaying information to the client.
44. The virtual shopping trolley according to Claim 42, further including a 20 loudspeaker which is responsive to at least one of the events for vocalizing information to the client.
45. The virtual shopping trolley according Claim 43 or 44, wherein the information relates to a promotion.
46. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of Claims 32 to 45, 25 wherein the processor is further adapted to:
(m) displaying an image of a shopping trolley for pushing through the displayed image of the store, and (n) upon selection of an item, displaying an image of the selected item in the shopping trolley.
47. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of the Claims 32 to 46, wherein the processor is further adapted to compile a purchase order of the selected items for submission to the virtual store.
48. The virtual shopping trolley according to Claim 47, wherein the 5 processor is further adapted to store the purchase order in the storage medium to serve as a template for subsequent orders.
49. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of Claims 32 to 48, wherein the virtual store is part of a shopping complex allowing remote unrestricted navigation through constituent stores therein.
10 50. The virtual shopping trolley according to any one of Claims 32 to 49, wherein the processor is adapted to display a plan of the virtual store and a marker showing a current location of the client, and is further responsive to movement of the marker for allowing the client jumps from one part of the virtual store to another.
15 51. A computer-implemented virtual store for providing remote selection of one or more required items, said virtual store comprising: a processor, a storage medium coupled to the processor and having stored therein a database of all items currently stocked in the virtual store, said database including
20 data representative of an identity and unit price of each item, a communications port coupled to the processor and being capable of coupling to a remote virtual shopping trolley via a data communication channel for receiving from the virtual shopping trolley a request to connect and an identification of the virtual shopping trolley, and
25 a data transfer unit coupled to the processor and to the storage medium for extracting from the storage medium data representative of a respective 3- dimensional image of at least a part of the store showing one or more items for sale for adding to the virtual shopping trolley and downloading via the communication channel to the virtual shopping trolley.
52. The virtual store according to Claim 51 , wherein the data transfer unit is further adapted to download from the storage medium to the virtual shopping trolley a mobile program for permitting unrestricted navigation by the virtual shopping trolley through the image of the store.
53. The virtual store according to Claim 51 or 52, wherein the processor is adapted to:
(a) store in the storage medium the identification of the virtual shopping trolley and data representative of a current date, and
(b) check whether the virtual shopping trolley has made a previous connection and, if so, download to the virtual shopping trolley via the data communication channel incremental data relating to changes in the database since the previous connection by the virtual shopping trolley to the virtual store.
54. The virtual store according to Claim 53, wherein the processor is further adapted to :
(c) download to the virtual shopping trolley a previous purchase order to serve as a basis for selection of items, and
(d) store the purchase order in the storage medium.
55. The virtual store according to Claim 51, wherein the processor is adapted to:
(a) check whether the virtual shopping trolley has made a previous connection and, if not download to the virtual shopping trolley a questionnaire for determining at least one client preference,
(b) receive from the virtual shopping trolley data representative of at least one client preference,
(c) store the at least one client preference in the storage medium, and
(d) download a reduced inventory of items according to the at least one client preference.
56. The virtual store according Claim 51, wherein the processor is adapted to:
(a) receive data relating to a required item to be selected, and
(b) extract from the database the respective 3-dimensional image of the 5 store showing the selected item for downloading to the virtual shopping trolley.
57. The virtual store according to any one of Claims 51 to 56, wherein the processor is further adapted to:
(e) associate a respective event with different locations in the virtual store, ιo and
(f) carry out the respective event if the client navigates to a location having the event associated therewith.
58. The virtual store according to Claim 57, wherein at least one of the events is downloading information to the virtual shopping trolley.
15 59. The virtual store according to Claim 58, wherein the information includes data representative of a vocalized message.
60. The virtual store according Claim 58 or 59, wherein the information relates to a promotion.
61. The virtual store according to any one of Claims 51 to 60, wherein the 20 processor is further adapted to receive and process a purchase order of the selected items from the virtual shopping trolley.
62. The virtual store according to Claim 61, wherein the processor is further adapted to store the purchase order to serve as a template for subsequent orders.
25 63. The virtual store according to any one of Claims 51 to 62, wherein the virtual store is part of a shopping complex allowing remote unrestricted navigation through constituent stores therein.
64. A computer program product comprising a computer useable medium having computer readable program code embodied therein for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store and stored in a storage medium thereof, the computer readable program code comprising: (a) computer readable program code for causing a computer to display a 3- dimensional image of at least part of a store showing one or more items for sale,
(b) computer readable program code for causing a computer to freely and continuously navigate through said image so as to display further parts of the store each showing respective items until one of the required items is displayed,
(c) computer readable program code for causing a computer to select the required items for further investigation, and
(d) computer readable program code for causing a computer to repeat steps (b) and (c) as necessary until all of the required items have been selected.
65. A program storage device readable by machine, tangibly embodying a program of instructions executable by the machine to perform method steps for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store and stored in a storage medium thereof, the method steps comprising at least the steps of:
(a) displaying a 3-dimensional image of at least part of a store showing one or more items for sale,
(b) freely and continuously navigating through said image so as to display further parts of the store each showing respective items until one of the required items is displayed,
(c) selecting the required items for further investigation, and
(d) repeating steps (b) and (c) as necessary until all of the required items have been selected.
66. A computer program product comprising a computer useable medium having computer readable program code embodied therein for providing remote selection of one or more required items from a virtual store over a data communication channel, the computer readable program code comprising: (a) computer readable program code for causing a computer to maintain a database of all items currently stocked in the virtual store, said database including data representative of an identity and unit price of each item, (b) computer readable program code for causing a computer to receive from the client a request to connect and a client identification, and (c) computer readable program code for causing a computer to download to the client via the data communication channel data representative of a respective 3-dimensional image of at least a part of the store showing one or more items for sale for selection by the client.
67. A program storage device readable by machine, tangibly embodying a program of instructions executable by the machine to perform method steps for providing remote selection of one or more required items from a virtual store over a data communication channel, the method steps comprising at least the steps of:
(a) maintaining a database of all items currently stocked in the virtual store, said database including data representative of an identity and unit price of each item,
(b) receiving from the client a request to connect and a client identification, and
(c) downloading to the client via the data communication channel data representative of a respective 3-dimensional image of at least a part of the store showing one or more items for sale for selection by the client.
PCT/IL2000/000576 1999-09-22 2000-09-18 Computer-implemented method and system for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store WO2001022308A2 (en)

Priority Applications (2)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
IL131991 1999-09-22
IL13199199A IL131991D0 (en) 1999-09-22 1999-09-22 Method and system for shopping over the internet

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AU7442200A AU7442200A (en) 1999-09-22 2000-09-18 Computer-implemented method and system for selecting one or more required items from a virtual store

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Cited By (2)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20140129354A1 (en) * 2012-11-02 2014-05-08 Nant Holdings Ip, Llc Virtual planogram management, systems, and methods
WO2014121079A2 (en) * 2013-02-01 2014-08-07 Cvs Pharmacy, Inc. 3d virtual store

Cited By (7)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20140129354A1 (en) * 2012-11-02 2014-05-08 Nant Holdings Ip, Llc Virtual planogram management, systems, and methods
US9430752B2 (en) * 2012-11-02 2016-08-30 Patrick Soon-Shiong Virtual planogram management, systems, and methods
US9536218B2 (en) 2012-11-02 2017-01-03 Patrick Soon-Shiong Virtual planogram management systems and methods
US9953288B2 (en) 2012-11-02 2018-04-24 Nant Holdings Ip, Llc Virtual planogram management systems and methods
WO2014121079A2 (en) * 2013-02-01 2014-08-07 Cvs Pharmacy, Inc. 3d virtual store
US20140222627A1 (en) * 2013-02-01 2014-08-07 Vijay I. Kukreja 3d virtual store
WO2014121079A3 (en) * 2013-02-01 2015-01-15 Cvs Pharmacy, Inc. 3d virtual store

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