Power

Apple wants to monitor your blood pressure

Mirrored selfie cams, ticket trackers, VR anywhere and other patents from Big Tech.

Apple wants to monitor your blood pressure

Apple's design for a blood pressure monitor.

Image: USPTO/Apple

It was a bit of a fallow week this week for patents from Big Tech. Perhaps everyone was distracted by … literally all the other tech news happening this week. Nonetheless, there were a few zany ones in the mix, including a blood pressure wearable from Apple, a mirrored camera from Facebook, and a ticket-watching service from Amazon. Not that you're likely to need a ticket to anything anytime soon.

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

Conversational replies

If you're too lazy to reply to every message you get from distant friends and acquaintances, this new patent from Google might be of some use. It outlines a system that can understand what's in photos or messages sent to someone and generate a response based off of the content. The only example given in the patent art is a user being sent a picture of the Eiffel Tower, to which the system decides to reply, "I am no architect, but the Eiffel tower seems like quite a construction!" If that's the level of quality of response to be expected from this, definitely don't use it on anyone you care about.

Separating insects

Not exactly the first thing that would've sprung to mind as something Alphabet would hold a patent on, but its Verily life-sciences company now has a patent for a method of mechanically separating insects. The patent says that the "reasons for separating insects are various," but doesn't list what they are. Why ever you might want to separate male and female or old and young insects, Alphabet is here for you.

Amazon

Recommending new clothes based on body scans

If you don't have a problem with Amazon having a detailed scan of the topography of your body, and you hate shopping for clothes, then this might be the thing for you. The company has a new patent for a process that scans your body, keeps that information on file, along with purchases you've made in the past, and uses that information to find clothes online that would fit you and go with the clothes you already own. No more dragging a friend to the store to see if clothes look good on you — now you can have AI do it for you.

Proactively reserving tickets to bands you like

It's a drag to miss out on concerts by bands you love because you don't have the time to sit in a virtual queue or you just didn't know they were coming to town. Amazon seems to have an idea to make the ticket-buying process a little easier. Through the system it envisions, you would indicate that you're a fan of a certain artist, how many tickets you'd generally like to buy, where you'd like to sit, and how much you'd like to pay. It could even do parts of this through checking purchase and music-streaming histories. The system would then alert you when tickets to that band are on sale so you can jump on them, rather than having to wait all day at the computer to get them. I can't wait til Joe Songbird is next in town.

Apple

Blood pressure monitor

Apple announced its latest Apple Watch this week, and it comes with a new blood-oxygen sensor onboard. While that might be useful if you have chronic lung issues (or, you know, COVID), most people probably aren't going to want to know that all the time. Many more people, however, probably do want to know if their blood pressure is trending in the wrong direction. This is a tougher challenge to solve, given the amount of pressure the cuff needs to work. The patent suggests using several sensors instead of a single cuff to measure how long it takes for blood to move around the wearer's body.

Braille on an Apple Watch band

Apple prides itself on the accessibility functions of its products, especially the iPhone. Apparently it's looking to take things a step further with the Apple Watch. A new patent this week outlines a band for the wearable replete with tiny motors all over it that could raise or lower the surface area around them, creating something that would allow tactile messages in Braille to be formed. This seems like it'd be a bit of a power drain for the watch, but probably well worth the tradeoff for anyone with vision impairments.

Facebook

A camera with a mirror on it

Some people have had qualms with the most powerful social network in the world making webcam devices like the Portal, but others are fans. And that's probably why Facebook is exploring designing another camera device that features a mirrored front. It would let you line up perfect selfies without needing the device to have its own screen or be linked up to another device. Given how much remote work is likely to still be a big part of many people's lives for a while longer, this seems like a pretty smart idea — if you don't mind it coming from Facebook.

Microsoft

Using real-world objects to orient yourself in VR

VR often needs a system that has to be set up to figure out the boundaries of where you can move in your room so that you don't accidentally walk into a wall. Microsoft's patent suggests using objects in the room you're in to anchor your experience. That could be something on the floor, a window or even your bed. Being able to dynamically anchor the experience like this would make it simple to use your VR headset in multiple different locations without having to go through a complicated setup process as well.

Fintech

Circle’s CEO: This is not the time to ‘go crazy’

Jeremy Allaire is leading the stablecoin powerhouse in a time of heightened regulation.

“It’s a complex environment. So every CEO and every board has to be a little bit cautious, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told Protocol at Converge22.

Photo: Circle

Sitting solo on a San Francisco stage, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire asked tennis superstar Serena Williams what it’s like to face “unrelenting skepticism.”

“What do you do when someone says you can’t do this?” Allaire asked the athlete turned VC, who was beaming into Circle’s Converge22 convention by video.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and 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 Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Enterprise

Is Salesforce still a growth company? Investors are skeptical

Salesforce is betting that customer data platform Genie and new Slack features can push the company to $50 billion in revenue by 2026. But investors are skeptical about the company’s ability to deliver.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Salesforce has long been enterprise tech’s golden child. The company said everything customers wanted to hear and did everything investors wanted to see: It produced robust, consistent growth from groundbreaking products combined with an aggressive M&A strategy and a cherished culture, all operating under the helm of a bombastic, but respected, CEO and team of well-coiffed executives.

Dreamforce is the embodiment of that success. Every year, alongside frustrating San Francisco residents, the over-the-top celebration serves as a battle cry to the enterprise software industry, reminding everyone that Marc Benioff’s mighty fiefdom is poised to expand even deeper into your corporate IT stack.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Policy

The US and EU are splitting on tech policy. That’s putting the web at risk.

A conversation with Cédric O, the former French minister of state for digital.

“With the difficulty of the U.S. in finding political agreement or political basis to legislate more, we are facing a risk of decoupling in the long term between the EU and the U.S.”

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cédric O, France’s former minister of state for digital, has been an advocate of Europe’s approach to tech and at the forefront of the continent’s relations with U.S. giants. Protocol caught up with O last week at a conference in New York focusing on social media’s negative effects on society and the possibilities of blockchain-based protocols for alternative networks.

O said watching the U.S. lag in tech policy — even as some states pass their own measures and federal bills gain momentum — has made him worry about the EU and U.S. decoupling. While not as drastic as a disentangling of economic fortunes between the West and China, such a divergence, as O describes it, could still make it functionally impossible for companies to serve users on both sides of the Atlantic with the same product.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

A 'Soho house for techies': VCs place a bet on community

Contrary is the latest venture firm to experiment with building community spaces instead of offices.

Contrary NYC is meant to re-create being part of a members-only club where engineers and entrepreneurs can hang out together, have a space to work, and host events for people in tech.

Photo: Courtesy of Contrary

In the pre-pandemic times, Contrary’s network of venture scouts, founders, and top technologists reflected the magnetic pull Silicon Valley had on the tech industry. About 80% were based in the Bay Area, with a smattering living elsewhere. Today, when Contrary asked where people in its network were living, the split had changed with 40% in the Bay Area and another 40% living in or planning to move to New York.

It’s totally bifurcated now, said Contrary’s founder Eric Tarczynski.

Keep Reading Show less
Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

Latest Stories
Bulletins