Celebrity Invention: Steven Spielberg's Audio Editing Device


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for big patents_300.jpgSome celebrities aren't just pretty faces. A few of them are also touched with that Yankee prowess for tinkering and invention. In this weekly series, we introduce you to the Patents of the Rich and Famous. And maybe you learn a little bit about how patent literature works along the way.

Inventor: Steven Spielberg

Known For: Think of your favorite movie of all time. Steven Spielberg probably had something to do with it. Since the 1975 release of Jaws, Spielberg has been pumping out Academy Award-winning blockbusters. He produces. He directs. He designs video games. And he's been doing it for over four decades.

He also invents.

How does he find the time for it all? He doesn't, which is why he invented a device meant to help save time for someone always on the go.


Invented Apparatus: "Method and apparatus for annotating a document"

Think Google Docs, but with voices. Spielberg invented a device that not only allows users to edit a document from anywhere in the world, but also recognizes verbal annotations:

An embodiment of the invention describes a system that enables people to add verbal annotations (i.e. add comments) to a digital document such as a movie script, book, or any other type of document. This device provides the reviewer with an improved way to interact and comment upon documents while on the move.

An audio editing system! Sounds like an editor's dream. But how, exactly, does it work?

The device that embodies the invention uses an audio output mechanism to play the document to the user. At any time during playback the user may provide a comment by selecting an annotate button and simply speaking to the device. In turn, the device records the user's comment and associates it with the location in the document where the comment was given. If the document is replayed after a user provides comments, the device plays back the document and the comments via the audio output mechanism. This way the user can hear the document and any comments that were made about the document.

The idea is that you speak into a machine that will transmit your edits into cyberspace. So while it sounds peachy, really, the utility of the annotating machine depends on how accurately it translates audio edits into text. And judging from how well voice activation software usually works, we can imagine this might present a problem for Spielberg's innovation.

Rationale Behind Invention: He's thinking this would be useful for editing scripts on the go.

Since the people who are largely responsible for reviewing documents often have a schedule that keeps them moving from one meeting to another, there is a need for a device that simplifies the review process by allowing a reviewer to interact with the document while on the move. For example, current systems do not allow the reviewer to access and verbally comment on a document from multiple locations. A reviewer cannot use current systems to begin reviewing the document from a cell phone in the reviewer's car, continue to review the same document from a home PC, and finish reviewing the document from a pay phone.

Thumbnail image for StephenSpiel2EDIT.jpgYou hear that? You can even finish reviewing the document from a pay phone ... if you can find one of those.

Off-Label Uses: We bet the foreign service officers involved in writing those eloquent anecdotes over at Cablegate Roulette would appreciate Spielberg's editing device.

Future Directions for Research: Speaking takes too much effort. We want editing devices that translate our thoughts onto the page.

Read more Celebrity Inventions.

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Rebecca Greenfield is a writer based in Brooklyn. She was formerly on staff at The Atlantic Wire.

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