Apple wants to let your friends drive

The latest patent filings from Big Tech.

Apple wants to let your friends drive
Image: Rainbow Designs/Govind Dhiman/Noun Project

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.

Alphabet

Allowing for different workflows

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.

Apple

Animated avatars

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.

Storage for your Apple Pencil

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?

Give others access to your ride

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.

Facebook

A better way to virtually type

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.

Microsoft

Playing with friends

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.

Workplace

Indeed is hiring 4,000 workers despite industry layoffs

Indeed’s new CPO, Priscilla Koranteng, spoke to Protocol about her first 100 days in the role and the changing nature of HR.

"[Y]ou are serving the people. And everything that's happening around us in the world is … impacting their professional lives."

Image: Protocol

Priscilla Koranteng's plans are ambitious. Koranteng, who was appointed chief people officer of Indeed in June, has already enhanced the company’s abortion travel policies and reinforced its goal to hire 4,000 people in 2022.

She’s joined the HR tech company in a time when many other tech companies are enacting layoffs and cutbacks, but said she sees this precarious time as an opportunity for growth companies to really get ahead. Koranteng, who comes from an HR and diversity VP role at Kellogg, is working on embedding her hybrid set of expertise in her new role at Indeed.

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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.

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee store's mobile application: Our chosen brew will be on the counter when we arrive. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.

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Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has worked in the B2B technology industry for over 20 years. As a freelance writer she writes for top technology brands, including IBM, HPE, Adobe, AT&T, Verizon, Epson, Oracle, Intel and Square. She specializes in a wide range of technology, such as AI, IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and CX. Jennifer also wrote a bestselling book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer to help other writers launch a high earning freelance business.
Climate

New Jersey could become an ocean energy hub

A first-in-the-nation bill would support wave and tidal energy as a way to meet the Garden State's climate goals.

Technological challenges mean wave and tidal power remain generally more expensive than their other renewable counterparts. But government support could help spur more innovation that brings down cost.

Photo: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

Move over, solar and wind. There’s a new kid on the renewable energy block: waves and tides.

Harnessing the ocean’s power is still in its early stages, but the industry is poised for a big legislative boost, with the potential for real investment down the line.

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Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Entertainment

Watch 'Stranger Things,' play Neon White and more weekend recs

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Here are our picks for your long weekend.

Image: Annapurna Interactive; Wizard of the Coast; Netflix

Kick off your long weekend with an extra-long two-part “Stranger Things” finale; a deep dive into the deckbuilding games like Magic: The Gathering; and Neon White, which mashes up several genres, including a dating sim.

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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.

Fintech

Debt fueled crypto mining’s boom — and now, its bust

Leverage helped mining operations expand as they borrowed against their hardware or the crypto it generated.

Dropping crypto prices have upended the economics of mining.

Photo: Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images

As bitcoin boomed, crypto mining seemed almost like printing money. But in reality, miners have always had to juggle the cost of hardware, electricity and operations against the tokens their work yielded. Often miners held onto their crypto, betting it would appreciate, or borrowed against it to buy more mining rigs. Now all those bills are coming due: The industry has accumulated as much as $4 billion in debt, according to some estimates.

The crypto boom encouraged excess. “The approach was get rich quick, build it big, build it fast, use leverage. Do it now,” said Andrew Webber, founder and CEO at crypto mining service provider Digital Power Optimization.

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Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

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