We've reported on a number of recently published Microsoft patents this month. These include live picture overlays for mixed reality systems, a modular capsule for the Surface Pen, a multi-dimensional sensor device for wearables, and more.
Now, Microsoft's latest patent describes a new file targeting system that promotes content needing user attention. This aims to address issues regarding engagement attempts with users who display recurrent patterns of inaction in reviewing and modifying certain documents.
Microsoft's reasoning behind the idea mostly concerns collaborative work being performed by a group of users, such as in a work environment. The tech giant believes that there is currently no system which effectively deals with the problem of certain users lagging behind the others in various tasks, such as those that may involve documents. For example, a document that requires reviewing of updated security protocols from the whole group may get stuck at that stage due to one particular member not performing the task on time. Furthermore, traditional methods such as content management systems simply providing the document again for review or inserting it in a task list may not work out.
This is the kind of scenario where Microsoft believes an intelligent system that promotes the files to said user effectively can be deployed. A key difference lies in the fact that this mechanism would target users based upon their own inactivity, rather than action patterns engaged by their partners. So, there could be statistics-based threshold levels, such as confidence level regarding user inactivity, depending upon the activity that needs to be performed. As such, users considered to be falling into that threshold would be targeted. However, these margins will be quite flexible. Essentially, they could vary based on a number of factors, such as the user in question lagging behind due to being present in a different time zone, or the fact that some tasks could be sensitive in nature, and thus, be assigned higher priority and a lower threshold.
Another interesting approach would be that if certain users interact more with the presented engagements, then the confidence level threshold would be lowered for those team members, providing them with suggestions more regularly than given to an average user. There are some ways these 'engagement' techniques can be undertaken.
Assuming a targeted user is interacting with a word-processing document, they could be shown the relevant links to click or other tasks to perform at the end of the document, or even in a task pane. Another mechanism includes threshold-triggering documents appearing in the user's recent files list, or in appended form with emails being sent out to them. If there are more than one files requiring attention, these could be arranged based on their priority. As an example, where a user's inactivity vs. their group's inactivity is very high, those documents could be granted higher priority. In addition, more than one of the aforementioned techniques could be utilized at a time.
This system, if it surfaces at any point in the future, could prove to be quite helpful for work environments where collaborative tasks are highly dependent on every team member. However, as with all other patents, there's no guarantee that Microsoft is actually planning such a system. Either way, you can read about the various mechanisms described in a lot more detail here.