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Apple wants to help me and my fat fingers

The funnest (and funniest) patent applications of the week!

iPhone

Sorry, Steve Jobs, my fingers aren't built for this.

Image: Protocol

Happy Fourth of July to all who celebrate. I'm celebrating by eating some hot dogs, going swimming and rounding up some of the funnest (and funniest) patent applications of the week.

Google wants to help make credit card fraud a bit easier to spot, Amazon is worried about people spilling drinks on the Echo, Apple wants to help me not make so many typos, Facebook is looking out for my Beat Saber sessions and Microsoft wants to make parental controls a little more intuitive.

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

Easier financial transactions

Fraudulent transactions on a credit card are a pain. It often takes the credit card provider time to gather all the information and verify that the chargers were in fact fraudulent. That's because all of that info — balances, charges, location of charges — is kept in various places, and finding the information takes a lot of resources. This patent imagines a platform where all of the information is stored in one place: an electronic ledger that acts as a single source of truth. It could be used to make transactions at merchants, send money to friends and even sign up for new accounts. That way, the next time something is amiss, the institution doesn't have to look at various forms of data to get your financial situation back on track.

Amazon

Prettier (and more durable) portable speakers

I have so many smart devices in my home, I can get anything done from the couch. But having that many gadgets can be an eyesore (I mean, I don't think it's ever an eyesore, but someone else could, I imagine). This patent takes into account the aesthetics and durability of a smart assistant. Lights and buttons and microphones and cords aren't just unsightly, but they can get messed up and ruin the whole machine if a drink is spilled nearby. It describes ways in which to build the assistants to ensure that they're sturdy, last a long time and in some cases, even keep costs down.

Apple

Phone interface for fat fingers like mine

Steve Jobs hated big phones. In the iPhone 4 era (remember antennagate?), he wasn't shy about tearing big phones apart, calling some "Hummers," saying that "You can't get your hand around it," in reference to larger form factors, and even predicting that "No one's going to buy that" big phone. (For the record, he was wrong; larger phones have been the standard for many years. A year after his death, even Apple released the taller iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus a year later.)

But even on a bigger display, my fat fingers still can't type words correctly on the first try, and I certainly have a hard time scrolling through documents and emails. This patent imagines an interface that adapts to what's happening on the screen. For example, if there are a ton of apps on the screen, a menu button would come in handy to help find what you're looking for. Or the app icons could shrink to fit more on the screen and negate the need for scrolling.

Facebook

Muffling VR headset sounds

The silliest part about a VR headset is that unless you have headphones in, everyone in the room can hear what song you're playing Beat Saber to. Or they can hear a conversation you might be having. This patent wants to help mitigate sound leaking from the headset without the use of headphones. It imagines various privacy levels that the user can set that then lay an audio filter over the sound. That way, I can do the BTS Beat Saber 15 times in a row and nobody would even notice.

A yarn strap

There's really not much to say about this one, other than part of the patent application just describes what a yarn strap might be used for … such as tying two things together. But basically it's describing a method and apparatus in which to finish the ends of the strap, so that they don't fray. Whew, I was really worried about frayed straps, but I'm glad someone is looking into it.

Microsoft

Parental controls for the future

Parental controls are pretty simple: I set a time limit for the device itself or certain apps, or block certain apps from being accessed at all. But as devices change, and kids' habits change, some parental controls might feel too rigid or constrained, or might not work at all.

This patent describes a way to set parental controls that use context clues as well as hard and fast rules. For example, in the future, I might allow my kid to use Instagram (not now, he's almost 3), but not while he's driving a car. Or the system might keep track of homework hours and then automatically allocate bonus YouTube time based on settings.

Good job, Jill. Bonus YouTube time for you.Image: UPTO

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

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Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

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FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

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As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

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Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

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Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

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