News Column

"Method for Modeling Using Sketches" in Patent Application Approval Process

February 13, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Computer Weekly News -- A patent application by the inventors Berg, Daniel C. (Holly Springs, NC); Elder, Michael D. (Durham, NC); Swanke, John E. (Terryville, CT), filed on July 22, 2012, was made available online on January 30, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews correspondents.

This patent application is assigned to International Business Machines Corporation.

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Creating a model or diagram is often the first step when designing a process or deploying a system. A model can be defined as a complete specification of a problem or solution domain from a particular perspective. Ultimately, a model is a logical concept that can be expressed physically as a drawing, for example on a whiteboard or in a modeling tool. Exemplary models include business analysis models, class diagram models, use-case models, design models, deployment models, data models, etc. A model can either be constructed in a formal manner, i.e., with semantic details included, or in an informal manner, i.e., without semantic details. More specifically, as 'semantic' pertains to the different meanings of words or symbols, 'semantic details' added to a model identify or define concepts in a model. Typically, an initial model or diagram is constructed in an informal manner without tying specific definitions to the model (referred to herein as a 'semantic-less model'). This allows the creator to get an idea down on paper while not having to worry about the specific details of his design. A semantic-less model is composed of notational elements. A notational element is an informal element that is used to visually depict a component of a semantic-less model but adds no semantic details. For example, a notational element might be a rectangle drawn as a component of a model. The rectangle might represent that a function or process should take place here, but may not specifically define what the function or process is or how it operates. Several graphical editors, such as Microsoft Visio and PowerPoint, allow users to create models and diagrams without being required to allocate semantic meaning (e.g., defining the process represented by the box in the above example) to each notational element (referred to herein as a 'semantic-less editor'). However, without semantics, the model created (or the logical concept defined by the model) can't be validated or used to automatically generate other content. A model with all the logical components clearly defined may be referred to as a 'formal' or 'semantic' model.

"If a user desires to make a formal model or diagram, a graphical semantic editor, such as IBM Rational Rose and PowerDesigner, is used. A model created by a graphical semantic editor is composed of semantic elements. Semantic elements provide the semantic details previously discussed and may be classes, activities, relationships, specific machines, or any descriptive information, and may be depicted as graphically illustrated components of the model. For example, in a system deployment model describing a website, the components would include hardware components such as a web server and an application server, and software components such as a web application and a database. Each of these components are semantic elements of the deployment diagram and may be displayed as an image recognized by the graphical semantic editor as a known component. Taking the example from above where an informal notational element was a rectangle depicting some function or process that should be included; the corresponding semantic element might be a rectangle with a name of a specific and recognizable function. Alternatively, the corresponding semantic element could be any image recognized by the semantic editor as representative of the specific function.

"The relationship between various semantic elements, referred to herein as a 'semantic relationship', can also be visually depicted. For example, if the web server hosts the web application, the two corresponding semantic elements would have a semantic relationship which may be depicted by the semantic element representing the web application being shown contained within the semantic element representing the web server. A semantic element may, in some embodiments, have a number of semantic properties providing further details. For example, for the semantic element representing a web server, the amount of memory and the speed of the server processor are possible semantic properties of the web server semantic element that can be included in the semantic model by a user if a higher degree of specificity is desired.

"Creating semantic models can be more difficult than creating semantic-less models because they force the user to be continually aware of the details of their model. Often, semantic editors force users to pick the exact semantic element and its relationship to another semantic element before it can be added to the model. With regard to the example above, when building a semantic model, the user would need to not only identify the hardware and software components as specific semantic elements (e.g., the web server and the web application), but in addition, the user would need to identify a specific semantic relationship (e.g., the server hosting the application) before the semantic model would be complete.

"For most graphical semantic editors, Unified Modeling Language (UML) has become a standard visual modeling language for software specification and design. UML is used to specify, visualize, modify, construct and document the artifacts of an object-oriented software intensive system under development. In other words, for most semantic editors, semantic elements and their corresponding relationships and properties are presented in terms of UML. This can present problems for users wishing to convert a semantic-less model into a semantic model.

"A graphical semantic editor may support conversion between semantic and semantic-less models. These hybrid editors typically provide the user with a tool palette of a set number of notational elements or shapes that can be added to a visual depiction of an informal or semantic-less model. In this manner, a user is not forced to sketch each component of a semantic-less model manually. These notational elements or shapes provided by hybrid editors are referred to herein as 'sketch shapes'. After the informal model is composed, the user is then given the option of converting the entire semantic-less model to a semantic model or converting each individual semantic-less component into a semantic element by filling in the semantic details required to create each semantic element and/or semantic relationship. The sketch shapes can also be given sketch shape names and sketch shape descriptions at the user's discretion, which serve as informal details for each sketch shape. A sketch shape name can be used to identify a specific matching semantic element. A sketch shape name can also be used to identify a category of sketch shapes which correlate to a specific semantic element or category of semantic elements. Additionally, a sketch shape description can be used to identify a category of descriptions which correlate to one or more semantic properties. Once the semantic model is created, the semantic editor stores the semantic-less model and may even create a link to the semantic-less model within the semantic model. Therefore, the user can go back and forth between the semantic-less model and the semantic model at any time."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent application, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "Embodiments of the present invention provide three methods for converting sketch shapes into semantic elements using a semantic editor add-on. First, a method for conversion of a sketch shape that is part of a nested shape combination, which includes a sketch shape either hosting or nested within a first semantic element. A computer receives a request to convert the sketch shape into a second semantic element. The computer then determines whether a semantic relationship between the sketch shape and the first semantic element can be created. Based on the semantic relationship determination, the computer converts the sketch shape into the second semantic element.

"Second, a method for conversion of sketch shapes to semantic elements by storing sketch shape names and sketch shape descriptions in correlation with specific semantic elements and properties. A computer receives input to display a first sketch shape. The computer then receives input defining a name for the first sketch shape. The computer receives input indicating a semantic element that correlates with the first sketch shape and stores the correlation between the indicated semantic element and the first sketch shape name. The stored correlation is referenced for subsequent sketch shapes names or descriptions that are the same or a subset of the stored sketch shape name or description.

"Third, a method of conversion of a plurality of sketch shapes into a semantic template containing a plurality of semantic elements. The computer receives a request to convert a plurality of sketch shapes into a plurality of semantic elements. The computer then receives input mapping each sketch shape to specific semantic elements from the semantic template. The computer then converts each mapped sketch shape into the specific mapped semantic element. The computer creates each semantic element from the semantic template that was not mapped to a sketch shape. The computer then creates semantic relationships between two or more converted or created semantic elements if the semantic relationship existed between the two or more semantic elements in the semantic template.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

"FIG. 1 illustrates a semantic modeling device, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate two nested shape combinations, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 3 is a flowchart illustrating the steps of converting either of the two nested shape combinations into semantic elements, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 4 is a flowchart illustrating the steps of converting either of the two nested shape combinations into semantic elements when no semantic relationship can be created between the shapes within the nested shape combination, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIGS. 5A and 5B illustrate two nested shape combinations after conversion into semantic form, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIGS. 6A and 6B illustrates two outcomes that can occur when one of the two nested shape combinations are converted to semantic elements, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 7 illustrates a sketch shape that has a sketch shape name and three sketch shape descriptions, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 8 is a flowchart illustrating the steps of mapping sketch shape names and descriptions to semantic elements, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 9 illustrates conversion screenshot 900 displayed on a computing device, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 10 illustrates a group of sketch shapes, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 11 is a flowchart illustrating the steps of simultaneously converting a plurality of sketch shapes to a semantic template, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 12 illustrates dialog box 1202 which is used to map each selected sketch shape to a semantic element from a semantic template, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 13 illustrates sketch file 1000 after sketch shape 1002, 1004 and 1006 have been converted to semantic elements, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 14 illustrates a sketch shape being enlarged in size, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 15 illustrates a second sketch shape after it has replaced the enlarged sketch shape, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 16 is a flowchart that illustrates the steps of replacing a resized sketch shape with a second sketch shape, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 17 illustrates a complex sketch shape being enlarged in size, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 18 illustrates a second sketch shape after it has replaced the enlarged complex sketch shape, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 19 illustrates a first bitmap image without an image mask connected to a second bitmap image by a line, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 20 is a flowchart that illustrates the steps of creating an image mask for the first bitmap image, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 21 illustrates the first bitmap image with an image mask connected to a second bitmap image by a line, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 22 illustrates a sketch shape being moved into a second sketch file via a sketch file shape, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 23 illustrates a sketch shape connected to a second sketch shape via a sketch file shape, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 24 is a block diagram depicting the components of a computer having the semantic editor add-on of FIG. 1, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention."

URL and more information on this patent application, see: Berg, Daniel C.; Elder, Michael D.; Swanke, John E. Method for Modeling Using Sketches. Filed July 22, 2012 and posted January 30, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=4020&p=81&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140123.PD.&OS=PD/20140123&RS=PD/20140123

Keywords for this news article include: Software, Web Server, International Business Machines Corporation.

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Source: Computer Weekly News


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