WO2003094072A1 - System and method for providing avatar mail - Google Patents

System and method for providing avatar mail Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2003094072A1
WO2003094072A1 PCT/KR2003/000886 KR0300886W WO03094072A1 WO 2003094072 A1 WO2003094072 A1 WO 2003094072A1 KR 0300886 W KR0300886 W KR 0300886W WO 03094072 A1 WO03094072 A1 WO 03094072A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
avatar
mail
information
user
original
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/KR2003/000886
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Hyun-Gi An
Original Assignee
Hyun-Gi An
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to KR10-2002-0024487A priority Critical patent/KR100493525B1/en
Priority to KR10-2002-0024487 priority
Application filed by Hyun-Gi An filed Critical Hyun-Gi An
Publication of WO2003094072A1 publication Critical patent/WO2003094072A1/en

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Classifications

    • 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
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/10Office automation, e.g. computer aided management of electronic mail or groupware; Time management, e.g. calendars, reminders, meetings or time accounting
    • G06Q10/107Computer aided management of electronic mail
    • 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
    • G06Q50/00Systems or methods specially adapted for specific business sectors, e.g. utilities or tourism
    • G06Q50/30Transportation; Communications
    • G06Q50/32Post and telecommunications
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L51/00User-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, transmitted according to store-and-forward or real-time protocols, e.g. e-mail

Abstract

A system and method for providing avatar mail are provided. The system includes a mail transmission unit, which is provided with an avatar mail program, generates at least one avatar desired by a user using the avatar mail program according to a user’s control command, adds avatar information to original mail at the user’s request of avatar mail transmission so as to generate avatar mail, and transmits the avatar mail to a mail server through a communication network; and a mail reception unit, which when the avatar mail is received from the mail server through the communication network, separates the avatar information from the avatar mail using an avatar mail program provided in advance, generates an avatar based on the avatar information, and displays the avatar on a screen.

Description

SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR PROVIDING AVATAR MAIL
Technical Field
The present invention relates to a system and method for providing avatar mail, and more particularly, to a system and method for providing an avatar by which a mail sender is identified when mail is transmitted and received.
Background Art With the appearance of Internet based on TCP/IP, an electronic mail (e-mail) service has become a most useful service utilizing the Internet. Such an e-mail service is used for transmission of messages between remote mail clients in a dispersed mail client/server environment. Generally, an e-mail service uses a post office protocol (POP) or an Internet message access protocol (IMAP) for a mail client receiving a message from a server and a simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) for message transmission from a mail client to a server or from a server to another remote server. All of the POP, IMAP, and SMTP are protocols operating based on the TCP/IP and fundamentally uses HyperText Markup Language (HTML) as a message format.
Outlook and an e-mail program (hereinafter, referred to as a basic mail program) are representative examples of an e-mail service using the POP or IMAP and the SMTP. In the meantime, with the appearance of a document sharing service called World Wide Web (WWW) (hereinafter, referred to as a web) based on the Internet, conventional e-mail services started to be provided on the web. The web is a service based on a HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) operating on the TCP/IP. The web operates to allow documents provided by web servers to be accessed using web browsers. The HTML is used as a standard format of a document supported by the web, and a uniform resource locator (URL) for designating an address is used to allow a document (or a service providing the document) existing on the web to be accessed.
Since as well as companies, schools, and organizations, genera! people can use e-mail services based on the web, the usage of the e-mail services has increased tremendously. Hotmail service of the Microsoft and Hanmail service of the Daum are representative examples of an e-mail service based on the web.
Most users use an e-mail service through a mail client provided with a basic mail program or uses an e-mail service, such as the Hotmail or the Hanmail, based on the web in order to transmit information to and receive information from other remote users.
When a mail sender uses an e-mail service through a sender mail client, he/she executes a basic mail program and composes the content of mail to be sent. Then, if the mail sender selects a transmission function after entering a receiver, the sender mail client transmits the mail content to a server supporting the e-mai! service through the Internet. Thereafter, the server transmits the mail content received from the sender mail client to a receiver mail client through the Internet. Then, the mail receiver checks the mail content by starting a basic mail program provided in the receiver mail client.
When a user wants to use an e-mail service based on the web, the user accesses a web mail server using his/her terminal and goes through a member registration process. Then, the user transmits mail to and receives mail from other users by using a mail account allocated to him/her.
An e-mail service using a mail client supports a function that displays information about a sender on a separate window such as a text window so as to inform a receiver of the sender information when mail is received. An e-mail service based on the web supports a function that transmits a character message to a receiver's mobile communication terminal such as a cellular phone so as to inform the receiver of sender information.
However, the conventional e-mail services cannot animatedly provide sender information to the computer generation familiar with graphics and cannot effectively transfer a mail sender's intention to a mail receiver since they provides information about different mail senders in a fixed format.
Disclosure of the Invention The present invention provides a system and method for providing avatar mail, through which a mail sender generates a desired avatar, and when one or more pieces of mail are received, avatars included in the respective pieces of mail are extracted and displayed on a screen of a terminal selected by a mail receiver so that the mail receiver can identify the mail senders through the displayed avatars.
According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a system which provides avatar mail and include a web server providing an avatar mail program. The system includes a mail server, which supports transmission and reception of mail through a communication network; a mail transmission unit, which operates an avatar mail program that was provided in advance or has been downloaded from the web server through Internet according to a user's control command so as to generate at least one avatar desired by the user, adds avatar information to original mail composed by the user at the user's request of avatar mail transmission so as to generate avatar mail, and transmits the avatar mail to the mail server; and a mail reception unit, which when avatar mail is received through the mail server, operates an avatar mail program provided in advance so as to separate the avatar mail into avatar information and original mail information, generates an avatar based on the separated avatar information, displays the avatar on a screen, and provides original mail using a basic mail program provided in advance according to the user's request of execution of the avatar.
According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a system which provides avatar mail and provides an avatar mail service through a communication network. The system includes a mail transmission unit, which is provided with a basic mail program supporting a user to compose original mail and transmits the original mail through the communication network at the user's request of original mail transmission; a database server comprising a user management database, which manages detailed information on a plurality of users, and an avatar management database, which manages avatars generated according to the users' requests by users; an avatar mail service server comprising an avatar generation module, which generates avatars desired by the plurality of users at the users' requests and registers the avatars in the database server by users, and an avatar mail transmission module, which when original mail is transmitted from the mail transmission unit, adds avatar information generated according to requests of the user of the mail transmission unit to the original mail so as to generate avatar mail, and transmits the avatar mail to a receiver through the communication network; and a mail reception unit, which when the avatar mail is received from the avatar mail server, extracts the avatar information from the avatar mail and generates an avatar, displays the avatar on a screen, and provides the original mail using a basic mail program, provided in the mail reception unit in advance, at a user's request of execution of the avatar.
According to still another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a system which provides avatar mail and provides an avatar mail service through Internet. The system includes a database server, which comprises a member management database managing information on a plurality of members, a member's avatar management database managing avatars by members, and a member's mail management database managing each member's avatar mail at the member's request of storage of the avatar mail; and an avatar mail service server, which is provided with an avatar mail program and comprises an avatar generation module, which generates desired avatars at the users' requests of avatar creation, the users being registered as members, and registers the avatars in the database server by users; an avatar mail transmission module, which when a user requests avatar mail transmission, searches the database server for avatar information registered for the user, adds the searched avatar information to original mail composed by the user so as to generate avatar mail, and transmits the avatar mail to a receiver's mail account; and an avatar transmission module, which when avatar mail is received in a user's mail account, separates avatar information from the avatar mail and transmits the avatar information to the user's predetermined terminal.
According to still another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of providing an avatar mail service through a communication network. The method includes (a) when a user requests avatar mail transmission after composing original mail, adding avatar information to the original mail so as to generate avatar mail; (b) transmitting the avatar mail- to a mail server through the communication network; (c) receiving the avatar mail transmitted from the mail server through the communication network and separating the avatar mail into the avatar information and original mail information; and (d) generating an avatar based on the avatar information, displaying the avatar on a screen, and providing content of the original mail using a basic mail program at a user's request of execution of the avatar.
According to still another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of providing an avatar mail service through Internet. The method includes (a) when a user accesses through the Internet using a user terminal, determining whether the user is a member; (b) generating avatars desired by a plurality of users registered as members at the users' requests of avatar creation and registering the generated avatars by users; (c) when a user requests avatar mail transmission, adding avatar information registered by the user to original mail composed by the user so as to generate avatar mail; (d) transmitting the generated avatar mail to a receiver's mail account based on receiver information entered during composition of the original mail by the user; and (e) when predetermined avatar mail is received in a mail account of the user, extracting avatar information from the received avatar mail and transmitting the avatar information to a terminal of the user.
Brief Description of the Drawings
FIG. 1 is a diagram of a system for providing avatar mail according to a first embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the functions of an avatar mail program according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 3 is a flowchart of a method of generating an avatar on a mail client using the system for providing avatar mail according to the first embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 4 is a flowchart of a procedure for transmitting avatar mail on a mail client in a method of providing avatar mail according to the first embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 5 is a flowchart of a procedure for receiving avatar mail on a mail client in a method of providing avatar mail according to the first embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 6 is a diagram of a system for providing avatar mail according to a second embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 7 is a diagram of a system for providing avatar mail according to a third embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 8 is a flowchart of a method of providing avatar mail according to the third embodiment of the present invention. Best mode for carrying out the Invention
Hereinafter, a system and method for providing avatar mail according to embodiments of the present invention will be described in detail with reference to the attached drawings.
FIG. 1 is a diagram of a system for providing avatar mail according to a first embodiment of the present invention. Referring to FIG. 1 , the system includes a transmission mail client 100, Internet 110, a mail server 120, a remote mail server 130, a reception mail client 140, a wireless telephone network 150, and a receiver's portable terminal 160.
The transmission mail client 100 includes a transmission basic mail program (for example, Outlook) 101 , which supports a sender to compose original mail, and a transmission avatar mail program 103, which supports every operation for generating avatar mail by adding avatar information to the original mail at the sender's request. Similarly, the reception mail client 140 includes a reception basic mail program 141 and a reception avatar mail program 143.
Here, a mail client includes a basic mail program, which processes the transmission and reception of original mail, that is, transmits original mail, receives original mail from other mail clients, and provides the received mail to a user of the mail client; and an avatar mail program, which processes the transmission and reception of avatar mail at the user's request. In order to support an avatar mail service, the mail client may include a basic mail program having a function that transmits and receives avatar mail, without including a separate avatar mail program. Alternatively, the mail client may download an avatar mail program from a web server (not shown) through real-time communication with the web server only when the user requests the transmission of avatar mail. Here, the user of the mail client can pay charge for using the avatar mail program to a web server manager, and preferably, the payment is performed according to the agreement between the user and the web server manager. Hereinafter, the assumption is made that a mail client according to the present invention separately includes an avatar program and is divided into the transmission mail client 100 used in a transmission party transmitting original mail and the reception mail client 140 used in a receiving party receiving the original mail transmitted from the transmission mail client 100, and the transmission and the reception of the avatar mail between the transmission mail client 100 and the reception mail client 140 will be described.
A sender starts the transmission mail program 101 using the transmission mail client 100 and composes original mail. Then, the transmission mail client 100 transmits the original mail through the Internet 110 based on receiver information entered in a receiver section by the sender. Here, when a server supporting a mail service of the transmission mail client 100 is used as the mail server 120, the original mail is transmitted from the transmission mail client 100 to the mail server 120 through the Internet 110.
The mail server 120 receives the original mail transmitted from the transmission mail client 100 through the Internet 110, detects a receiver of the original mail from the original mail, and transmits the original mail to the reception mail client 140 of the receiver. Here, when the mail server 120 does not supports the reception mail client 140 of the receiver, it transmits the original mail through the communication with another mail server, that is, the remote mail server 130.
As shown in FIG. 1, the mail server 120 can support mail transmission and reception between the transmission mail client 100 and the reception mail client 140 through the Internet 110 or a communication network within a company (not shown), that is, a local area network (LAN). A procedure in which the mail server 120 supports mail transmission and reception between the transmission mail client 100 and the reception mail client 140 through the LAN is widely known to those skilled in the art, and thus detailed descriptions thereof will be omitted. The reception mail client 140 receives the original mail from the server supporting a mail service and provides the content of the original mail when a receiver starts the reception basic mail program 141. The mail transmission and reception among the transmission mail client 100, the mail server 120, the remote mail server 130, and the reception mail client 140 is widely known to those skilled in the art, and thus detailed descriptions thereof will be omitted.
The system according to the first embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 1 is different from the conventional mail providing systems in that when a sender requests transmission of avatar mail using the transmission mail client 100, the transmission mail client 100 adds avatar information to an original mail so as to generate avatar mail, transmits the avatar mail to the reception mail client 140, and the reception mail client 140 receives the avatar mail, extracts the avatar information, generates an avatar based on the avatar information, and displays the avatar on a screen so that a receiver can identify the sender based on the avatar displayed on the screen. A system for providing avatar mail on a network using a LAN according to the present invention operates in the same manner as a system for providing avatar mail on the Internet according to the present invention, and thus only the operation of a system for providing avatar mail on the Internet according to the present invention will be described below.
FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the functions of an avatar mail program provided in a mail client. The avatar mail program has the functions of both the transmission avatar mail program 103 included in the transmission mail client 100 and the reception avatar mail program included in the reception mail client 140.
Referring to FIG. 2, the avatar mail program includes a process 200 including a program drive module 201 , an avatar generation module 203, an avatar mail generation module 205, an avatar separation module 207, and an avatar display module 209; and a database (DB) module 210 including an avatar information management DB module 211 and an avatar management DB module 213.
The avatar information management DB module 211 in the DB module 210 manages avatar display information used for generating an avatar according to mail client user's requests. The avatar display information includes basic appearance information according to sex, facial expression information, basic motion information, voice information, hair information, and coordination information.
The avatar management DB module 213 manages information on an avatar generated according to the mail client user's requests, that is, avatar information. The avatar information includes at least one type of information among the avatar display information selected by the user with reference to an avatar display information list provided by the avatar information management DB module 211 and avatar link information. The avatar link information includes the address of a web site providing predetermined avatar display information.
When the mail client user starts a basic mail program included in the mail client in order to compose mail, the program drive module 201 in the process 200 starts an avatar mail program. When the user requests avatar creation, the avatar generation module 203 reads the avatar display information list from the avatar information management DB module 211 and displays it on a screen of the mail client. If the user selects particular avatar display information from the avatar display information list, the avatar generation module 203 generates an avatar according to the selected avatar display information. If the user is satisfied with the generated avatar, the avatar generation module 203 registers the selected avatar display information in the avatar management DB module 213. The user can generate a plurality of avatars by repeating the above processes, allocate them to different receivers, and register them in the avatar management DB module 213 by receivers. In the meantime, when the user enters the address of a particular web site providing particular avatar display information, the avatar generation module 203 allocates the avatar link information including the web site address to a list of the receivers and registers it in the avatar management DB module 213 by receivers.
When the user requests re-creation of an avatar fro avatar mail transmission after starting the basic mail program through a mail client and composing original mail, the avatar mail generation module 205 adds avatar information re-created by the user to one among the header portion, the body portion, and the appendix portion of the original mail so as to generate avatar mail. Here, the user can generate an avatar reflecting his/her current emotional state by editing or modifying the avatar information registered in advance. For example, the user can generate a new avatar by modifying the motion or facial expression of an existing avatar or adding voice to the existing avatar.
In the meantime, when the user does not request the re-creation of an avatar, the avatar mail generation module 205 reads the avatar information registered in advance from the DB module 210 and adds the avatar information to the original mail so as to generate avatar mail. When the user has allocated a plurality of avatars to different receivers, respectively, the avatar mail generation module 205 searches the DB module 210 for avatar information allocated to a receiver corresponding to receiver information, which the user entered in the receiver section during composition of the original mail, and adds the searched avatar information to the original mail so as to generate the avatar mail.
When predetermined avatar mail is received in the mail client, the avatar separation module 207 separates the received avatar mail into avatar information and original mail information and transmits the original mail information to the basic mail program. The avatar display module 209 generates an avatar based on the avatar information separated by the avatar separation module 207 and displays the avatar on the screen of the mail client. The user can identify a sender of the original mail based on the avatar displayed on the screen and check the content of the original mail by executing the avatar. Here, the avatar display module 209 operates the basic mail program at the user's request to execute the avatar so as to support the provision of the original mail content.
FIG. 3 is a flowchart of a method of generating an avatar on a mail client using the system for providing avatar mail according to the first embodiment of the present invention. Referring to FIG. 3, when a user (hereinafter, referred to as an i-th sender) selects an avatar mail program (hereinafter, referred to as an i-th avatar mail program 103_i) in order to generate a desired avatar using his/her mail client (hereinafter, referred to as an i-th transmission mail client 100_i), the i-th transmission mail client 100_i starts the i-th avatar mail program 103_i (S100). Thereafter, when the i-th sender requests creation of an avatar
(S110), the i-th transmission mail client 100_i provides an avatar display information list (S120), generates the avatar based on avatar display information selected from the avatar display information list by the i-th sender, and displays the generated avatar on a screen (S130). When the i-th sender is satisfied with the avatar (S140), the i-th transmission mail client 100_i determined whether the i-th sender enters information on a receiver (hereinafter, referred to as a j-th receiver) to be allocated the avatar (S150). In addition, the i-th transmission mail client 100_i allocates and registers the avatar display information based on the entered j-th receiver information. If the i-th sender is not satisfied with the avatar, the i-th transmission mail client 100_i repeats steps S120 and
S130. Here, the i-th sender can generate one avatar and commonly use the avatar for a plurality of receivers when transmitting avatar mail.
When the i-th receiver enters the address of a web site providing avatar display information (S170), the i-th transmission mail client 100_i allocates avatar link information including the web site address to the j-th receiver information entered by the i-th sender (S150 and S160).
FIG. 4 is a flowchart of a procedure for transmitting avatar mail on a mail client in a method of providing avatar mail according to the first embodiment of the present invention. When a sender starts the transmission basic mail program 101 to compose mail (S200), the transmission mail client 100 starts the transmission avatar mail program 103 (S210).
When the sender requests transmission of avatar mail (S220) after completing the composition of the original mail using the transmission basic mail program 101 , the transmission mail client 100 determines whether the sender requests creation of an avatar (S230). If the sender does not request the transmission of avatar mail (S220), the transmission mail client 100 transmits the original mail to the reception mail client 140 of a receiver of the original mail (S290).
If the sender requests the creation of an avatar (S230), the transmission mail client 100 generates the avatar according to the sender's requests by performing the steps shown in FIG. 3 (S240) and adds avatar information to the original mail so as to generate avatar mail (S250). Next, the transmission mail client 100 transmits the avatar mail to the reception mail client 140 of the receiver corresponding to receiver information entered in a receiver section by the sender (S260).
In the meantime, if the sender does not request the creation of an avatar, the transmission mail client 100 extracts the receiver information entered in the receiver section during the composition of the original mail by the sender (S270) and searches for avatar information allocated to the receiver corresponding to the extracted receiver information (S280). When avatar information allocated to the receiver is not found, the transmission mail client 100 displays a message indicating that there is no avatar information allocated to the receiver on a screen and supports the sender to perform the generation of an avatar. Next, the transmission mail client 100 adds the searched avatar information to the original mail so as to generate the avatar mail and transmits the avatar mail (S250 and S260).
FIG. 5 is a flowchart of a procedure for receiving avatar mail on a mail client in a method of providing avatar mail according to the first embodiment of the present invention. The reception mail client 140 receives mail transmitted through the Internet 100 (S300). If the received mail is avatar mail (S310), the reception mail client 140 separates the avatar mail into avatar information and original mail information (S320). Here, the reception mail client 140 includes the reception basic mail program 141 and the reception avatar mail program 143.
Next, it is determined whether a receiver using the reception mail client 140 permits display of an avatar included in the avatar mail (S330). In other words, the receiver receives avatar mail from a plurality of senders through the reception mail client 140 and can set in advance such that only at least one avatar of avatar mail transmitted from at least one particular sender is displayed on a screen. Accordingly, the reception mail client 140 determines whether the received avatar mail is transmitted from a sender for which an avatar display has been set to be permitted, and displays an avatar based on the avatar information included in the avatar mail.
If it is determined that the receiver permits the display of the avatar of the avatar in step S330, it is determined whether the receiver's portable terminal 160 designated by the receiver for the report of the arrival of the avatar mail exists (S340). In other words, the receiver can set in advance such that the avatar information is transmitted to a receiver's portable terminal, in order to check the arrival of the avatar mail to the reception mail client 140 when the receiver is absent from a place where the reception mail client 140 is located. Accordingly, the receiver can know the arrival of the avatar mail to the reception mail client 140 and simultaneously identify a sender of the avatar mail and know the current emotional state of the sender, through the avatar displayed on a screen of the receiver's portable terminal 160. Here, the receiver's portable terminal 160 includes an avatar drive module for displaying an avatar on the screen based on avatar information.
When the user has not set the receiver's portable terminal 160 for the report of the arrival of avatar mail, the reception mail client 140 generates an avatar based on the avatar information separated from the avatar mail and displays the generated avatar on a screen (S350). Here, when the avatar information is avatar display information, the reception mail client 140 generates the avatar based on the avatar display information. When the avatar information is avatar link information, the reception mail client 140 accesses a web site providing particular avatar display information based on the avatar link information, downloads the avatar display information from the web site, and generates the avatar based on the downloaded avatar display information. Then, the avatar display information 140 drives the reception avatar mail program 143 to analyze the avatar display information and display the avatar based on the result of the analysis. In addition, when avatar voice information is included in the avatar display information, the reception mail client 140 can display the avatar and simultaneously output an avatar voice signal through a voice output unit (not shown), for example, a speaker.
Thereafter, if the receiver requests execution of the avatar (S360), the reception mail client 140 provides original mail content using the reception basic mail program 141 (S370) Here, the reception mail client 140 can be designed to request the receiver to enter an ID and a password when the receiver requests the execution of the avatar in order to prevent people other than the receiver from executing the avatar.
In the meantime, when the receiver has set the receiver's portable terminal 160 for the report of the arrival of avatar mail, the reception mail client 140 transmits the avatar information separated from the avatar mail to the receiver's portable terminal 160 through the Internet 110 and the wireless telephone network 150 (S380). Then, the receiver's portable terminal 160 generates the avatar based on the avatar information and displays the avatar on the screen (S390). When the avatar information transmitted from the reception mail client 140 through the Internet 110 and the wireless telephone network 150 is the avatar display information, the receiver's portable terminal 160 generates the avatar based on the avatar display information. When the received avatar information is the avatar link information, the receiver's portable terminal 160 accesses the web site providing the particular avatar display information based on the avatar link information, downloads the avatar display information from the web site, and generates the avatar based on the downloaded avatar display information. In the meantime, when the separated avatar information is the avatar link information^ the reception mail client 140 can access the web site based on the avatar link information, download the avatar display information from the web site, and transmit the avatar display information to the receiver's portable terminal 160 through the Internet 110 and the wireless telephone network 150. Then, the receiver's portable terminal 160 generates the avatar based on the avatar display information transmitted from the reception mail client 140.
FIG. 6 is a diagram of a system for providing avatar mail according to a second embodiment of the present invention. Referring to FIG. 6, the system of the second embodiment includes a transmission mail client 300, Internet 310, an avatar mail service server 320, a DB server 330, a reception mail client 340, a wireless telephone network 350, and a receiver's portable terminal 360. There are a plurality of transmission mail clients 300, reception mail clients 340, and receiver's portable terminals 360. The transmission mail clients 300 and the reception mail clients 340 shown in FIG. 6 are different from the transmission mail client 100 and the reception mail clients 140 shown in FIG. 1 in that the transmission mail clients 300 include only a transmission basic mail program 301 and the reception mail clients 340 include only a reception basic mail program 341.
The DB server 330 includes a sender/receiver management DB 331 , which manages detailed information on a plurality of senders and receivers using an avatar mail service through the avatar mail service server 320, and a sender's/receiver's avatar management DB 333, which manages an avatar set by each of the senders and receivers.
Unlike the mail server 120 and the remote mail server 130 shown in FIG. 1 , the avatar mail service server 320 is provided with an avatar mail program to support the mail service of each of the transmission mail clients 300 and the reception mail clients 340 and simultaneously allow the senders using the respective transmission mail clients 300 and the receivers using the respective reception mail clients 340 to use an avatar mail service using an avatar, and includes an avatar generation module 321 and an avatar mail transmission module 323 The avatar mail service server 320 registers the detailed information on the senders using the transmission mail clients 300 and the receivers using the reception mail clients 340 in the sender/receiver management DB 331 of the DB server 330.
When the senders and the receivers access the avatar mail service server 320 and request creation of an avatar, the avatar generation module 321 of the avatar mail service server 320 provides an avatar display information list that was stored in advance. Next, the avatar generation module 321 generates avatars based on avatar display information selected from the avatar display information list by the senders and the receivers, respectively allocates the avatars to other receivers designated by the senders and other senders designated by the receivers, and registers the avatars in the sender's/receiver's avatar management DB 333 of the DB server 330.
When original mail is received from the transmission mail clients 300 through the Internet 310, the avatar mail transmission module 323 of the avatar mail service server 320 extracts receiver information registered in the original mail and searches the sender's/receiver's avatar management DB 333 of the DB server 330 for avatar information allocated to a receiver corresponding to the receiver information. Next, the avatar mail transmission module 323 adds the searched avatar information to the original mail and then transmits the original mail to the reception mail clients 340 through the Internet 310. Here, the operation of the reception mail clients 340 is the same as the operation shown in FIG. 5, and thus detailed description thereof will be omitted.
FIG. 7 is a diagram of a system for providing avatar mail according to a third embodiment of the present invention. Referring to FIG. 7, the system of the third embodiment includes a plurality of sender terminals 400, Internet 410, an avatar mail service server 420, a DB server 430, a plurality of receiver terminals 440, a wireless telephone network 450, and a plurality of receiver's portable terminals 460. The sender terminals 400 and the receiver terminals 440 are provided with a web browser to access a server supporting a web-based mail service and are provided with an avatar display module to display an avatar.
The DB server 430 includes a member management DB 431, which manages detailed information on a plurality of senders and receivers registered as members using the avatar mail service server 420, a member's avatar management DB 433, which manages an avatar set by each of the members, and a member's mail management DB 435, which manages each member's avatar mail or original mail transmitted and received between the members. The avatar mail service server 420 supports a conventional mail service based on an web and is provided with an avatar mail program to additionally support an avatar mail service for the members. In addition, the avatar mail service server 420 includes an avatar generation module 421 , an avatar mail transmission module 423, and an avatar transmission module 425. When a sender or a receiver accesses the avatar mail service server 420 using his/her sender terminal 400 or receiver terminal 440, the avatar mail service server 420 determined whether the sender or receiver is a member and provides a service environment desired by the sender or receiver when the sender or receiver is determined as being a member.
When a sender or receiver registered as a member request creation of an avatar, the avatar generation module 421 of the avatar mail service server 420 provides an avatar display information list that was stored in advance and generates an avatar based on avatar display information selected from the avatar display information list by the sender or receiver. If the sender or receiver is satisfied with the generated avatar, the avatar generation module 421 allocates information on the generated avatar to a receiver information list designated by the sender or a sender information list designated by the receiver and registers the avatar information in the member's avatar management DB 433 of the
DB server 430. Here, when additional cost is incurred by the avatar generation, the avatar generation module 421 can request the sender or receiver that requested the avatar creation to pay for the additional cost.
In addition, when the sender or receiver enters the address of a web site providing avatar display information, the avatar generation module 421 allocates avatar link information including the web site address to the receiver information list designated by the sender or the sender information list designated by the receiver and registers the avatar link information in the member's avatar management DB 433. When a sender registered as a member accesses the avatar mail service server 420 using his/her sender terminal 400, completes composition of original mail, and then requests avatar mail transmission, the avatar mail transmission module 423 extracts receiver information entered in a receiver section during the composition of the original mail by the sender. Next, the avatar mail transmission module 423 searches the member's avatar management DB 433 for avatar information allocated to a receiver corresponding to the extracted receiver information, adds the searched avatar information to the original mail, and then transmits the original mail to a mail account of the receiver. Here, the assumption is made that the plurality of senders and receivers have their mail accounts in the avatar mail service server 420 in the third embodiment of the present invention.
When the number of actual uses of the avatar mail service by a sender exceeds a predetermined standard number of uses, the avatar mail transmission module 423 can request the sender to pay for additional uses of the avatar mail service.
The avatar transmission module 425 extracts the avatar information from the avatar mail received in the receiver's mail account and transmits the avatar information to a relevant receiver terminal 440. When the receiver has set a mail receipt report, the avatar transmission module 425 transmits the avatar information to the receiver terminal 440 through the Internet 410 and simultaneously transmits it to the receiver's portable terminal 460 through the Internet 410 and the wireless telephone network 450.
The receiver terminal 440 and the receiver's portable terminal 460 include an avatar display module, so that when the avatar information is received from the avatar mail service server 420, they display an avatar on their screens based on the avatar information and access the avatar mail service server 420 through the Internet 410 at the receiver's request of the execution of an avatar. FIG. 8 is a flowchart of a method of providing avatar mail according to the third embodiment of the present invention. Referring to FIG. 8, when a sender accesses the avatar mail service server 420 using his/her terminal, the avatar mail service server 420 determines whether the sender is a member and provides a mail service environment (S400 through S420). When the sender requests avatar mail transmission (S430) after completing the composition of original mail, receiver information entered in a receiver section during the composition of the original mail by the sender is extracted (S440), and avatar information allocated to a receiver corresponding to the receiver information is extracted from the member's avatar management DB 433 (S450).
The avatar information extracted in step S450 is added to the original mail so as to generate avatar mail (S460), and the avatar mail is transmitted to the receiver's mail account (S470).
The avatar mail service server 420 extracts the avatar information from the avatar mail received in the receiver's mail account, transmits it to a relevant receiver terminal 440 through the Internet 410, and when the receiver has set the receiver's portable terminal 460 for mail receipt report, transmits the avatar information to the receiver's portable terminal 460 through the Internet 410 and the wireless telephone network 450 (S480).
In the meantime, when the sender does not request avatar mail transmission in step S430, the original mail is transmitted to the receiver's mail account (S490).
Although a few embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes may be made in these elements without departing from the principles and spirit of the invention, the scope of which is defined in the appended claims and their equivalents. Industrial Applicability
As described above, the present invention supports a plurality of mail senders to generate desired avatars, thereby satisfying the mail senders' desire to promote themselves. In addition, the present invention displays avatars on a screen when avatar mail is received so that a mail receiver can easily identify a plurality of mail senders.

Claims

What is claimed is:
1. A system which provides avatar mail and include a web server providing an avatar mail program, the system comprising: a mail server, which supports transmission and reception of mail through a communication network; a mail transmission unit, which operates an avatar mail program that was provided in advance or has been downloaded from the web server through Internet according to a user's control command so as to generate at least one avatar desired by the user, adds avatar information to original mail composed by the user at the user's request of avatar mail transmission so as to generate avatar mail, and transmits the avatar mail to the mail server; and a mail reception unit, which when avatar mail is received through the mail server, operates an avatar mail program provided in advance so as to separate the avatar mail into avatar information and original mail information, generates an avatar based on the separated avatar information, displays the avatar on a screen, and provides original mail using a basic mail program provided in advance according to the user's request of execution of the avatar.
2. The system of claim 1 , wherein the mail transmission unit and the mail reception unit is integrated into a single mail client.
3. The system of claim 1 or 2, wherein the mail reception unit displays only at least one avatar whose display is set to be permitted by the user.
4. The system of claim 1 or 2, wherein the mail transmission unit edits or modifies existing avatar information according to the user's requests and stores the edited or modified avatar information.
5. The system of claim 4, wherein the mail transmission unit manages avatar information by receivers designated by the user.
6. The system of claim 1 , wherein the avatar information comprises at least one among avatar display information comprising at least one among appearance information according to sex, facial expression information, basic motion information, voice information, hair information, and coordination information; and avatar link information comprising an address of a web site providing predetermined avatar display information.
7. The system of claim 6, wherein the avatar mail program comprises: a database module comprising an avatar information management database module, which manages the avatar display information, and an avatar management database module, which manages information on at least one avatar created by the user; and a process comprising a program drive module, which drives the avatar mail program according to whether the basic mail program is driven; an avatar generation module, which extracts an avatar display information list registered in the database module and displays it on a screen at the user's request of avatar creation, generates an avatar according to the user's requests, and registers the avatar in the database module; an avatar mail generation module, which adds avatar information to original mail composed by the user at the user's request of avatar mail transmission so as to generate avatar mail; an avatar separation module, which separate avatar mail into avatar information and original mail information; and an avatar display module, which generates an avatar based on the avatar information separated by the avatar separation module and displays the avatar on the screen.
8. A system which provides avatar mail and provides an avatar mail service through a communication network, the system comprising: a mail transmission unit, which is provided with a basic mail program supporting a user to compose original mail and transmits the original mail through the communication network at the user's request of original mail transmission; a database server comprising a user management database, which manages detailed information on a plurality of users, and an avatar management database, which manages avatars generated according to the users' requests by users; an avatar mail service server comprising an avatar generation module, which generates avatars desired by the plurality of users at the users' requests and registers the avatars in the database server by users, and an avatar mail transmission module, which when original mail is transmitted from the mail transmission unit, adds avatar information generated according to requests of the user of the mail transmission unit to the original mail so as to generate avatar mail, and transmits the avatar mail to a receiver through the communication network; and a mail reception unit, which when the avatar mail is received from the avatar mail server, extracts the avatar information from the avatar mail and generates an avatar, displays the avatar on a screen, and provides the original mail using a basic mail program, provided in the mail reception unit in advance, at a user's request of execution of the avatar.
9. The system of claim 8, wherein the mail transmission unit and the mail reception unit is integrated into a single mail client.
10. A system which provides avatar mail and provides an avatar mail service through Internet, the system comprising: a database server, which comprises a member management database managing information on a plurality of members, a member's avatar management database managing avatars by members, and a member's mail management database managing each member's avatar mail at the member's request of storage of the avatar mail; and an avatar mail service server, which is provided with an avatar mail program and comprises an avatar generation module, which generates desired avatars at the users' requests of avatar creation, the users being registered as members, and registers the avatars in the database server by users; an avatar mail transmission module, which when a user requests avatar mail transmission, searches the database server for avatar information registered for the user, adds the searched avatar information to original mail composed by the user so as to generate avatar mail, and transmits the avatar mail to a receiver's mail account; and an avatar transmission module, which when avatar mail is received in a user's mail account, separates avatar information from the avatar mail and transmits the avatar information to the user's predetermined terminal.
11. The system of claim 10, wherein the avatar information comprises an avatar display program for displaying an avatar.
12. The system of claim 10, wherein when additional cost is incurred during the avatar generation, the avatar generation module requests payment of the additional cost.
13. The system of claim 10, wherein the avatar mail transmission module updates information on the number of uses of the avatar mail service in the member management database according to a user's request of the avatar mail transmission and when the number of uses of the avatar mail service exceeds a predetermined standard number of uses, requests payment for additional use.
14. A method of providing an avatar mail service through a communication network, the method comprising:
(a) when a user requests avatar mail transmission after composing original mail, adding avatar information to the original mail so as to generate avatar mail;
(b) transmitting the avatar mail to a mail server through the communication network;
(c) receiving the avatar mail transmitted from the mail server through the communication network and separating the avatar mail into the avatar information and original mail information; and
(d) generating an avatar based on the avatar information, displaying the avatar on a screen, and providing content of the original mail using a basic mail program at a user's request of execution of the avatar.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein step (d) comprises: (d 1 ) determining whether the user permits display of the avatar;
(d2) when it is determined that user permits display of the avatar, determining whether the user has set mail receipt report;
(d3) when it is determined that the user has set mail receipt report, transmitting information on the avatar whose display is permitted to a predetermined portable terminal of the user; and
(d4) when it is determined that the user has not set mail receipt report, generating the avatar whose display is permitted based on the avatar information and displaying the avatar on the screen.
16. A method of providing an avatar mail service through
Internet, the method comprising: (a) when a user accesses through the Internet using a user terminal, determining whether the user is a member;
(b) generating avatars desired by a plurality of users registered as members at the users' requests of avatar creation and registering the generated avatars by users;
(c) when a user requests avatar mail transmission, adding avatar information registered by the user to original mail composed by the user so as to generate avatar mail;
(d) transmitting the generated avatar mail to a receiver's mail account based on receiver information entered during composition of the original mail by the user; and
(e) when predetermined avatar mail is received in a mail account of the user, extracting avatar information from the received avatar mail and transmitting the avatar information to a terminal of the user.
PCT/KR2003/000886 2002-05-03 2003-05-02 System and method for providing avatar mail WO2003094072A1 (en)

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