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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.