Trending: Instead of a real check on the growing power of Amazon Web Services, Oracle’s Larry Ellison offers nothing but words
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the Fire smartphone.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the Fire smartphone.

Are you sitting on the couch looking at your tablet, or walking with your phone in your pocket?

The answer to that question could signal how best to reach you with a breaking news alert, and which device should receive the alert.

A diagram from the Amazon patent filing.

Amazon is exploring the possibility of using sensors in that way — determining which device someone is using, and how the device is being used, as a way of making notifications smarter, according to a patent application made public this week. The idea is to “attempt to provide a user with less disruptive event notifications by being aware of a user’s context,” the filing says.

The patent application points to one way that Amazon could expand its use of sensors in its devices. In its Fire phone, for example, the company uses front-facing cameras to detect which way the user is looking, as a way of controlling the device’s 3D interface. That phone has struggled to gain traction, but Amazon has signaled that it’s not planning to give up.

Here’s how the patent application describes the approach.

Before a notification is sent to multiple computing devices associated with the notifying account, contextual information for each device is determined. The contextual information can be determined by querying each device for information. The information can include how close each device is relative to other devices associated with the same user, if at least one of the devices is moving, whether the user’s attention is focused on a particular device, whether the user is engaging multiple devices simultaneously, and the like. Once contextual information associated with each device is determined, an appropriate type of alert associated with the notification is determined for each device. Accordingly, upon determining the appropriate alert for the most probable context of each device, the notification is sent to each computing device with the determined appropriate type of alert.

The inventor on this patent filing, Michael Touloumtzis, is also the inventor on another patent application that was just made public, describing ways to use on-screen gestures in combination with movement of a device (such as tilting) to navigate and interact with the user interface.

Editor’s Note: We were alerted to this patent application by Sqoop, a Seattle-area startup run by Microsoft and RealNetworks veteran Bill Hankes. Sqoop is developing a public-records search and notification service for journalists, and GeekWire is testing an early version of the Sqoop service.

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