A sample score sheet from the behavior monitoring application described in the patent filing.

Is Microsoft taking inspiration from Dwight Schrute these days?

Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute in The Office (Credit: BBC)

It almost seems that way based on a newly surfaced patent application from the Redmond company. The filing describes a computer system that would monitor behavior in the workplace with the goal of stopping bad habits such as co-workers cutting each other off during meetings and bosses bugging their direct reports on their lunch breaks — but at no small cost to workplace privacy.

The idea is to analyze interactions over video conferences, telephone, text messages and other forms of digital communication to look for patterns of behavior that have been defined in advance as negative or positive, and then assign a score to each person based on what the system finds.

An excerpt from the patent filing …

[In addition] to an email or voice conversation, other forms of interaction such as gestures, mannerisms, etc. in a video conference may also be analyzed and reported (e.g. nodding one’s head in agreement, shaking one’s head indicating disagreement, hand gestures, and similar ones). Additionally, patterns of communication may also be detected (in addition to distinct phrases or mannerisms).

For example, cutting off others during conversation, prolonged monologues, and comparable ones may be included in the category of behaviors to be discouraged. Similarly, a time of day, or day of week of initiating a conversation and likewise patterns may be of interest to the analysis (e.g. a supervisor calling his supervisees frequently during after hours or at lunch time, or when they are busy may not recognize that habit until shown by the application). The patterns may also be pivoted on the relationship. If an individual calls a direct report during lunch, it can have a stronger negative impact on the score than if they call a peer (though they both may be construed as negative and have a negative score impact). …

As discussed above, scores may be computed based on phrases, as well as gestures, mannerisms, and patterns. Mannerisms may include visual cues such as wearing dark glasses in a video conference, wearing unacceptable clothing to a business meeting, and similar ones.

As with most of these things, there’s no indication whether Microsoft actually plans to bring the idea to market. Originally filed in May 2010, the patent application was made public Nov. 10.

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  • Guest

    Another dumb idea that someone at MS decided to waste money on so that it can be patented and then forgotten.

  • Guest

    Another dumb idea that someone at MS decided to waste money on so that it can be patented and then forgotten.

  • Guest

    Another dumb idea that someone at MS decided to waste money on so that it can be patented and then forgotten.

  • Bals

    while MSFT was working on this Apple was building better iphones and Amazon was working on a tablet.  Morons.

    • Anonymous

      They were also working on WP7 and Visual studio and on Windows 8 and on xbox+kinect and on windows server 8 and on a bunch of other things.

      Get a grip!

      • Anonymous

        Haters gonna hate…

  • R A Danny

    Does Geekwire have any writers that speak English? 

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      That was a bad edit on my part, apologies. I’ve cleaned it up. They’ll have to add “moving too quickly” to the bad habits the system detects.

    • Guest

      That method of responding would probably earn you a demerit using this system.

  • George Adkisson

    Microsoft applied for and received a very similar patent late in 2005…the event was reported at Tech Republic…and even in Germany where work places began testing new work space rules for no complaints during breaks or while on the job…to eventually curb complaints about bad working conditions…end as personal psychological problems for a local doctor rather than psychiatrist. 
    Don’t ever believe that it is Microsoft that needs this patent or invention…it is the politicians that keep getting whistled on…and can not stop their direction because of their own use of voice to skull methods and causing harm to children historically for many, many years prior…with an external form of schizophrenia…and induced psychosis where they hear voices…plus the military is busy themselves using the PSYOP’s crews all over the uS and did so even before 2001, in New York, Florida and probably every state.
    The uS government is currently proving to many people around the globe…just how serious they actually are about enslaving their citizens…period.
    ref: TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 1 > SUBCHAPTER I > § 26 us code
    TITLE 50 > CHAPTER 36 > SUBCHAPTER I > § 1805 us code
    State Cyberstalking, Cyberharassment and Cyberbullying Laws
    The Library of Congress > THOMAS Home

  • Chenmingi

    Forget KLOUT scores – this could make a LOUT score. That would be handy before an interview.

  • Anonymous


    You forgot to mention, “setting up the employee to see his/her reaction(s)…”
    Microsotf is the ruler in slave driving people, now they can make you worker harder and longer with less money. with just a little tweak of the algorithm and now your aggregate score is below average.

    They have been doing this for the last decade to the employees in Redmond, researching on their brains, putting them in crowded offices to save a buck and now make a buck, forget building codes.

    Shame on them for releasing such harmful software to the environment, shame on them (throwing shoe). The impact looks very bad for humanity.

    Corporate PSYOP’s, fordism, and taylorism is their streamlined robot human assembly line. Nonthinkers for the new age.

    Now they can say you are nonqualified cause of this “gesture’.,:’ and now pay you less for the SAME work! Owners, bankers and CEO’s love it! Right NOW is the BIGGEST time for these types, they are getting highly advanced workers for pennies, pennies with no benefits or retirement. See these kids now adays cant think beyond ten years, but when they do it will be to late. its called retirement and none of these companies are doing it or plan to do it in the next twenty years so this generation is screwed.

    Now corporations like this release productivity tools to make us work EVEN harder with even less pay and claim its cause of a phone call at noon or wearing a dark shirt. So many variables of digital slavery involved. This only sets examples as other competitors follow same. Great article!

    Although this should be outlawed and the people brought to justice for these crimes.

    [Boycott Microsoft]

  • Email

    Adkisson, patent law is Title 35 USC…what are you looking at?
    Further, this is a patent application…..not a patent. It hasn’t been issued or likely even examined yet.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmmm, do you suppose Microsoft might be looking to get a big government contract out of this once perfected.. or hell lets be realistic, half-baked?

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