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Amazon wants to build an autonomous car army​

The best patent applications of the week.

Amazon wants to build an autonomous car army​

Amazon filed a patent for building a little autonomous car army.

Image: DailyPM/Noun Project and Protocol

Big Tech didn't disappoint this week, with a few patent applications that made me do a double take. Google wants to make the content of photos searchable, Amazon wants to build an army (of autonomous cars), Apple wants to help you party and Facebook loves straps.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

Alphabet

Photo search engine

I don't have any allergies, but I have family and friends who are allergic to everything from gluten to peanuts to sesame seeds. Menus often have little notations next to items that may contain gluten or nuts, but not always, and that can be scary.

This patent imagines a way for you to take a picture of something, where your phone acts as a search engine, using the information in the picture as the "search term." In the example images, a full menu is depicted, including chips and salsa in the appetizer section. The patent describes how the phone turns the text into a selectable box. If you click on chips and salsa, it could access information you gave it upfront (in this case, your allergies), compare it to the list of ingredients and then alert you if there's something that might make you have a reaction. And if you don't have any allergies, you could use this system to find pictures of chips and salsa, recipes for chips and salsa, and maybe even the best nearby place to get chips and salsa.

Now I want chips and salsa.

Amazon

A little army of delivery vehicles

This patent is blowing my mind. Autonomous delivery vehicles are becoming more popular, with companies like Nuro getting permission to launch a fleet of driverless cars to make local deliveries. But, as this patent notes, autonomous delivery equipment, such as sensors, navigation equipment and processors, can be very pricey. And if the car itself is small, all the equipment might not leave much room for groceries.

Instead, this patent imagines one car acting as a primary car, housing all the necessary equipment and sending commands to other vehicles that don't need all that equipment. The primary car could send a bunch of other cars off to do other deliveries. In the end, there's just a little army of autonomous cars being directed by one primary car, and I don't know about you, but that sounds both cool and terrifying.

Apple

Music party

Being in charge of the music at a party is a little intimidating. You have to make sure that the good vibes remain constant, that the volume isn't too annoying and that you are playing the right mix of music to make everyone happy.

This patent imagines a way for one phone to hook up to speakers around the house, but other people can pair their phones to control playback and volume, so that the burden of being a great DJ doesn't fall on one person. Or if a bunch of people are watching Netflix streamed by one phone, everyone could connect so that everyone is in charge of the remote.

Facebook

Research tool for workplace emotions

Companies rely on employee surveys to get a general sense of how people feel about different aspects of the company. But those surveys take time and effort, and getting a 100% return rate is difficult. Facebook wants to personalize and streamline gathering employee sentiment data by programming chatbots to see how employees are feeling about their workplace. Employees can choose to talk to a chatbot at any time of day, engage in natural conversations and the chatbot could gather and analyze the data. I imagine people would rather vent to a chatbot than try to rank how they feel on a scale of one to 10.

Similarly, Facebook wants to scrape social media data to tell a brand whether the brand is being destroyed on social media, which could lead to stock prices falling. That way the brand can act appropriately and quickly.

Big week for straps

Last week Facebook filed a patent for a yarn strap; this week, Facebook wants to create a way to attach various straps to the VR device. This way, multiple people can use the device and personalize how the strap fits.

Protocol | Workplace

The Activision Blizzard lawsuit has opened the floodgates

An employee walkout, a tumbling stock price and damning new reports of misconduct.

Activision Blizzard is being sued for widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Activision Blizzard is in crisis mode. The World of Warcraft publisher was the subject of a shocking lawsuit filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing last week over claims of widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination against female employees. The resulting fallout has only intensified by the day, culminating in a 500-person walkout at the headquarters of Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine on Wednesday.

The company's stock price has tumbled nearly 10% this week, and CEO Bobby Kotick acknowledged in a message to employees Tuesday that Activision Blizzard's initial response was "tone deaf." Meanwhile, there has been a continuous stream of new reports unearthing horrendous misconduct as more and more former and current employees speak out about the working conditions and alleged rampant misogyny at one of the video game industry's largest and most powerful employers.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

That's why we've created the Crypto Maturity Model: an iterative roadmap for cryptocurrency product rollout, enabling financial institutions to evaluate market opportunities while addressing compliance requirements.

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Caitlin Barnett, Chainanalysis
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Protocol | Workplace

Founder sues the company that acquired her startup

Knoq founder Kendall Hope Tucker is suing the company that acquired her startup for discrimination, retaliation and fraud.

Kendall Hope Tucker, founder of Knoq, is suing Ad Practitioners, which acquired her company last year.

Photo: Kendall Hope Tucker

Kendall Hope Tucker felt excited when she sold her startup last December. Tucker, the founder of Knoq, was sad to "give up control of a company [she] had poured five years of [her] heart, soul and energy into building," she told Protocol, but ultimately felt hopeful that selling it to digital media company Ad Practitioners was the best financial outcome for her, her team and her investors. Now, seven months later, Tucker is suing Ad Practitioners alleging discrimination, retaliation and fraud.

Knoq found success selling its door-to-door sales and analytics services to companies such as Google Fiber, Inspire Energy, Fluent Home and others. Knoq representatives would walk around neighborhoods, knocking on doors to market its customers' products and services. The pandemic, however, threw a wrench in its business. Prior to the acquisition, Knoq says it raised $6.5 million from Initialized Capital, Haystack.vc, Techstars and others.

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Megan Rose Dickey
Megan Rose Dickey is a senior reporter at Protocol covering labor and diversity in tech. Prior to joining Protocol, she was a senior reporter at TechCrunch and a reporter at Business Insider.
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Protocol | Workplace

What’s the purpose of a chief purpose officer?

Cisco's EVP and chief people, policy & purpose officer shares how the company is creating a more conscious and hybrid work culture.

Like many large organizations, the leaders at Cisco spent much of the past year working to ensure their employees had an inclusive and flexible workplace while everyone worked from home during the pandemic. In doing so, they brought a new role into the mix. In March 2021 Francine Katsoudas transitioned from EVP and chief people officer to chief people, policy & purpose Officer.

For many, the role of a purpose officer is new. Purpose officers hold their companies accountable to their mission and the people who work for them. In a conversation with Protocol, Katsoudas shared how she is thinking about the expanded role and the future of hybrid work at Cisco.

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Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Protocol | Fintech

The digital dollar is coming. The payments industry is worried.

Jodie Kelley heads the Electronic Transactions Association. The trade group's members, who process $7 trillion a year in payments, want a say in the digital currency.

Jodie Kelley is CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association.

Photo: Electronic Transactions Association

The Electronic Transactions Association launched in 1990 just as new technologies, led by the World Wide Web, began upending the world of commerce and finance.

The disruption hasn't stopped.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

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