The slow summer has finally caught up with patent filings. This week: Google wants to fix your workflow, Apple wants to help you keep your Apple Pencil safe and Microsoft wants everyone to have fun when they play video games, no matter what.
As always, remember that 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.
Google docs are pretty straightforward: You write in the doc, edit it, allow other people to edit it, and all of the changes are stored in a version history that anyone can see. But a linear workflow isn't the only kind of workflow that's out there. Sometimes a branched workflow is more appropriate, such as when building a web portal. In those instances, each component is composed of various versions that all come together to make one item.
Right now, document editors are only able to do one workflow at a time. But in this patent, Google imagines a way for both workflows to exist in the same document, and you can switch between them, depending on what you're trying to accomplish. That way you don't have to use various editors to do one task, and if you're sharing the document with someone else, they, too, can choose which workflow style they want to use.
Emojis are fine, but animated Memojis are even better. You can send one to a friend and it can more or less figure out your emotions by analyzing your facial features via the camera. But what if it's not really reading your face and accurately depicting your current mood? Or what if you, for some reason, want to create an avatar when you're in a meeting, as this patent suggests?
Apple wants to figure out other ways of animating avatars, and it's starting with the simplest: by typing in the emotions you're feeling. If you want to send a text to your mom that you can't come to the party, you can send a text that says, "I'm sorry I can't come to the party," then give it a command, "send with a sad robot," and the message will go through with a robot looking sad. The system could even offer a dropdown of various emotions, so you can choose which one to send. Never feel bad for missing a party again, because you've got a sad robot on your side to help.
Although it's known for its clean designs, some Apple designs are a miss. For example, try using your Magic Mouse while you're charging it. I'll wait.
But that's not the only big miss: No Apple devices have a built-in, dedicated, secure spot for an Apple Pencil. Apple's trying to change that with one of its recent patent filings, which imagines a little slot at the top of your laptop keyboard that can fit a Pencil. Does this have anything to do with last week's patent filing that imagined a touchscreen MacBook?
Most vehicles require a key or key fob to enter. But what if you want to let your friend drive your car? Give them the key, of course. But what if you're on vacation? Or what if your car offers a way to input a code? You'd have to change the code once you got back so your friend didn't take your car for joy rides at night.
This patent aims to make everyone's life easier by providing a token to a friend based on their phone number or some other type of identification method, similar to how apps use tokens to authorize users. But with this method, the car effectively "locks" the user out after using it or after a set amount of time by the owner.
When using a VR headset, there are ways to use a virtual keyboard to input text. But often the inputs don't give any kinesthetic feedback, and typos might occur. This patent imagines a way to fix that by using a language model that can autocorrect or autocomplete a word in real time. When the headset determines that you're not really paying attention to the keyboard, or that your typing slows down or speeds up, or your gaze shifts, it can be a little more aggressive in fixing typos and finishing your sentences.
Playing games online, like first-person shooters or MMORPGs, can be fun — unless your skill level doesn't match the others. Whether you're too good, or really bad, if everyone's skill doesn't match up, it could leave gamers feeling disengaged. This patent wants to change that by assigning various game modes to players of varying skill levels. If you're a level 1, it will assign you easy tasks to do that help the entire team complete the mission. If you're a level 10, it will assign you hard tasks to do that will also contribute to finishing the mission. Everyone will be able to enjoy playing with friends, no matter the skill levels of the entire team.