Facebook wants to be like Snapchat

Facebook is looking to make posts disappear, Google wants to make traffic reports more accurate, and more patents from Big Tech.

Facebook wants to be like Snapchat

Facebook has ephemeral posts on its mind.

Image: Protocol

Welcome to another week of Big Tech patents. Google wants to make traffic reports more accurate, Amazon wants to make voice assistants more intelligent, Microsoft wants to make scheduling meetings more convenient, and a ton more.

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


More-accurate traffic reports

Traffic in the Bay Area was mostly nonexistent throughout the pandemic, as most of Silicon Valley stayed home. But now that offices are opening back up, people are starting to hit the road, and it's only a matter of time before traffic jams will make driving anywhere a nightmare again.

One way to beat traffic, or at least know what's coming, is by using the traffic overlay in Google Maps. It uses the speed of cars on the road to determine whether traffic is heavy or light. But sometimes that can be misleading, because the map doesn't usually take into account different lanes, like high-occupancy lanes, so the traffic doesn't fully represent what's going on. This patent aims to make traffic predictions more accurate, using various methods: One could be measuring traffic at different points on the road; another method might be integrating traffic speeds both in regular lanes as well as express lanes. By incorporating all of the available data and not just the average speed of all the cars, the traffic information will be that much more useful — and maybe getting to work on time won't be an impossible feat.

Improved contactless payments

Contactless POS terminals use NFC technology to accept payments. That's where you wave your phone near the screen and you complete the transaction without having to touch anything. But those terminals don't take into account anything extra, such as loyalty cards or special offers.

This patent imagines upgrading the POS so it can include not just payment information, but additional information regarding the transaction. For example, a customer taps the POS once to pay and then again for it to retrieve any loyalty points, without having to touch the POS at any point. That's great news for people (like me) who never want to touch anything again that hasn't been doused in some sort of bleach solution.

Using visual cues with an automated assistant

Speaking of contactless, one of the best and easiest ways to be hands-free is with a voice assistant, which usually just needs a wake word and a command to then perform said command. But what if your voice assistant could respond to hand gestures, too? This patent lays out a way for the voice assistant to not only respond to new hand gestures, such as a thumbs-up that acts as an "affirmative" response, but also how it can avoid false responses, say, from a nearby TV where a character also happens to give a thumbs-up. That way you can feel confident about waving around at your Google Hub without worrying that some background character is saying "yes" to the $300 worth of pizza you just tried to order.


A more intelligent voice assistant

As I've written here many times, I love how voice assistants make my life easier; I have one in every room of the house. Granted, I usually use them to turn off lights, turn on sound machines, play music, or tell me what the weather is. This patent is looking to make voice assistants even more useful by triggering different notifications for various events. You could tell it something that doesn't have an end date, such as, "Tell me when I receive an email from David," in which case the assistant will notify you when David sends you that email, whenever it may be. Or you could ask it to tell you when the 49ers game starts, and it will alert you at the specific time and date. I'm all for never having to think for myself again, and it looks like we're one step closer to getting there.


Teleportation! (In VR)

Apple working on a VR headset has ruled the rumorverse for a long time — maybe even as long as the rumored Apple Car. But this patent might bring the company one step closer to making the rumor reality. Well, virtual reality, in this case.

Moving from location to location in virtual reality isn't always easy. You usually have to X out of the app, which disrupts the feeling of being inside the action. But this patent imagines a way of making it more seamless. Rather than signing out of the app or game, the different location can be overlaid onto the spot you're currently at. For example, if you're in a house, a little screen will pop up showing you what's outside of the house, and you can then choose to go there. Or if you want to go to a completely different location, using the same overlay, you could choose to get out of the house entirely. If only this existed in the real world.


Ephemeral Facebook posts? Sign me up!

A big complaint about the internet — and social media specifically — is that things you post can come back to haunt you. Unless you specifically delete them after a set amount of time. But what if the network could automatically delete it for you after a certain threshold? That's what this patent explores: A way for the platform to delete your post, much like Snapchat. That way you don't have to worry about that 3 a.m. drunk post too much — as long as you remember to set it to disappear.


Intelligent meetings

Offices are great: You have a place to go to work, sometimes you get lunch and you get to collaborate with colleagues in person. But now as offices are (slowly) opening back up, it's imperative to remember some of the downsides of an office — namely, fighting over conference room space.

This patent aims to make that a little easier by assigning conference rooms that are the appropriate size. If your meeting has only four people in it, there's no need for a 10-person conference room. The system would assign appropriately, and even take into consideration the event that someone drops out of the meeting.

And to make scheduling meetings even more helpful, this patent imagines a way to look at everyone's calendar events and parse out the most relevant information. Using a proximity score, the system would schedule or reschedule meetings, based on everyone's availability.


You need a healthy ‘debate culture’

From their first day, employees at Appian are encouraged to disagree with anyone at the company — including the CEO. Here’s how it works.

Appian co-founder and CEO Matt Calkins wants his employees to disagree with him.

Photo: Appian

Matt Calkins often hears that he’s polite, even deferential. But as CEO of Appian, he tells employees to challenge each other — especially their bosses — early and often.

“I love arguments. I love ideas clashing,” Calkins said. “I regard it as a personal compliment when someone respectfully dissents.”

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

Some of the most astounding tech-enabled advances of the next decade, from cutting-edge medical research to urban traffic control and factory floor optimization, will be enabled by a device often smaller than a thumbnail: the memory chip.

While vast amounts of data are created, stored and processed every moment — by some estimates, 2.5 quintillion bytes daily — the insights in that code are unlocked by the memory chips that hold it and transfer it. “Memory will propel the next 10 years into the most transformative years in human history,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and CEO of Micron Technology.

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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.

Gopuff says it will make it through the fast-delivery slump

Maria Renz on her new role, the state of fast delivery and Gopuff’s goals for the coming year.

Gopuff has raised $4 billion at a $15 billion valuation.

Photo: Gopuff

The fast-delivery boom sent startups soaring during the pandemic, only for them to come crashing down in recent months. But Maria Renz said Gopuff is prepared to get through the slump.

“Gopuff is really well-positioned to weather through those challenges that we expect in the next year or so,” Renz told Protocol. “We're first party, we control elements of our mix, like price, very directly. And again, we have nine years of experience.”

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Sarah Roach

Sarah (Sarahroach_) writes for Source Code at Protocol. She's a recent graduate of The George Washington University, where she studied journalism and criminal justice. She served for two years as editor-in-chief of GW's independent newspaper, The GW Hatchet. Sarah is based in New York, and can be reached at sroach@protocol.com


AT&T CTO: Challenges of the cloud transition are interpersonal

Jeremy Legg sat down with Protocol to discuss the race to 5G, the challenges of the cloud transition and nabbing tech talent.

AT&T CTO Jeremy Legg spoke with Protocol about the company's cloud transition and more.

Photo: AT&T

Jeremy Legg is two months into his role as CTO of AT&T, and he has been tasked with a big mandate: transforming the company into a software-driven business, with 5G and fiber as core growth areas.

This isn’t Legg’s first CTO gig, just his biggest one. He’s an entertainment biz guy who’s now at the center of the much bigger, albeit less glamorous, telecom business. Prior to joining AT&T in 2020, Legg was the CTO of WarnerMedia, where he was the technical architect behind HBO Max.

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Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.


How Canva uses Canva

Design tips and tricks from the ultimate Canva pros: Canva employees themselves.

Employees use Canva to build the internal weekly “Canvazine,” product vision decks, team swag and more.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Ever wondered how the companies behind your favorite tech use their own products? We’ve told you how Spotify uses Spotify, How Slack uses Slack and how Meta uses its workplace tools. We talked to Canva employees about the creative ways they use the design tool.

The thing about Canva is that it's ridiculously easy to use. Anyone, regardless of skill level, can open up the app and produce a visually appealing presentation, infographic or video. The 10-year-old company has become synonymous with DIY design, serving as the preferred Instagram infographic app for the social justice “girlies.” Still, the app has plenty of overlooked features that Canvanauts (Canva’s word for its employees) use every day.

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

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