Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

source-codesource codeauthorKaryne LevyNoneWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f
×

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Power

Apple wants to air-condition your VR headset

Google wants to make storytime more fun, Microsoft hopes you never miss a message again, and more patents from Big Tech.

Apple wants to air-condition your VR headset

Apple wants to put a fan in your VR headset. (Not this fan.)

Photo: Immo Wegmann/Unsplash

Hello! Welcome back to our weekly look at patent filings from Big Tech. I'm looking forward to sharing the weirdest (and coolest) patents companies have filed in the past week. But just 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.

This week: Google wants to make storytime more engaging, Amazon hopes to make shopping customizable, Apple wants to keep your head cool, Facebook doesn't want you to hurt yourself and Microsoft wants to make sure you never miss a text.

Alphabet

Storytime fun

I read aloud to my son every night before bed, and I try my best to provide silly voice effects ("Vroom!" "Crash!") when applicable. What would be even better: real effects that accompanied my silly ones. This patent imagines exactly that, with a nearby Nest speaker as the provider of the sound effects, based on a trigger word. I admit that I'd miss yelling "ROAR!" but maybe the speaker can just act as a backup.

Amazon

Amazon Go+?

Listen. I love Amazon Go stores. My least favorite thing in the world is interacting with strangers, and Amazon Go allows me to get what I need with very minimal interaction. The one problem with these stores is that you can only buy what's in stock. This patent imagines a retail store with automated checkout, but you can buy food or drinks that are made to order, as well as prepackaged items. I guess that means I'd have to talk to someone when I order, but at least I can quickly run away without needing to pull out my wallet.

This VR air conditioner looks very stylish and comfortable.Image: USPTO

Apple

AC for a VR headset

The worst part about using a VR headset: The band that presses up against the forehead is a literal sponge for sweat. This patent addresses that concern by describing a little cooling unit that circulates air in the headset to keep you cool, and the deflector specifically points the air at your face. That way you can play Beat Saber for hours without making the headset all gross.

Facebook

Collision avoidance in VR

I have an Oculus Quest 2, which is super fun to play games with and is very impressive. My one gripe, though, is that before I start playing, I have to outline my physical space with the controller, so that it can warn me if I'm about to bump into something. Since I'm bouncing around, it's inevitable that my arm pops into the danger zone, and a red grid shows up in my vision, warning me that I'm too close to a table or chair or dog.

This patent imagines incorporating real-world objects as objects that relate more specifically to the game. So rather than looking at a couch, when you put the headset on, you're looking at a treasure chest. And the chair is now a tree. That way you can stay in the game without hurting yourself, or the dog.

Microsoft

Never miss a message again

Sending a text message is easy and great, until you go through a tunnel or enter a building that has no service. If you're expecting a text, it might not come through while you're in there. And if it's a really long tunnel, it might not come through at all. This patent wants to help in these situations by actually storing the notification and sending it once the phone is back on the network. This alleviates the need for your friend to keep trying to send the message, and instead gives it to you when you're finally out of the tunnel.

Power

Google wants to (try to) make Google Glass cool again

Also this week: savvy virtual assistants, surveillance without violating people's privacy, and more patents from Big Tech.

Is making these cool even possible?

Image: Google

This week was so full of fun patent applications that I didn't know where to start. We've got a throwback to 2013, a virtual assistant that knows when I've stopped talking, and headphones that can determine a user's hearing abilities.

But 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

Keep Reading Show less
Karyne Levy

Karyne Levy ( @karynelevy) is the West Coast editor at Protocol. Before joining Protocol, Karyne was a senior producer at Scribd, helping to create the original content program. Prior to that she was an assigning editor at NerdWallet, a senior tech editor at Business Insider, and the assistant managing editor at CNET, where she also hosted Rumor Has It for CNET TV. She lives outside San Francisco with her wife, son and lots of pets.

As President of Alibaba Group, I am often asked, "What is Alibaba doing in the U.S.?"

In fact, most people are not aware we have a business in the U.S. because we are not a U.S. consumer-facing service that people use every day – nor do we want to be. Our consumers – nearly 900 million of them – are located in China.

Keep Reading Show less
J. Michael Evans
Michael Evans leads and executes Alibaba Group's international strategy for globalizing the company and expanding its businesses outside of China.

Does Elon Musk make Tesla tech?

Between the massive valuation and the self-driving software, Tesla isn't hard to sell as a tech company. But does that mean that, in 10 years, every car will be tech?

You know what's not tech and is a car company? Volkswagen.

Image: Tesla/Protocol

From disagreements about what "Autopilot" should mean and SolarCity lawsuits to space colonization and Boring Company tunnels, extremely online Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his company stay firmly in the news, giving us all plenty of opportunities to consider whether the company that made electric cars cool counts as tech.

The massive valuation definitely screams tech, as does the company's investment in self-driving software and battery development. But at the end of the day, this might not be enough to convince skeptics that Tesla is anything other than a car company that uses tech. It also raises questions about the role that timeliness plays in calling something tech. In a potential future where EVs are the norm and many run on Tesla's own software — which is well within the realm of possibility — will Tesla lose its claim to a tech pedigree?

Keep Reading Show less
Becca Evans
Becca Evans is a copy editor and producer at Protocol. Previously she edited Carrie Ann Conversations, a wellness and lifestyle publication founded by Carrie Ann Inaba. She's also written for STYLECASTER. Becca lives in Los Angeles.
Protocol | Workplace

Apple isn’t the only tech company spooked by the delta variant

Spooked by rising cases of COVID-19, many tech companies delay their office reopening.

Apple and at least two other Silicon Valley companies have decided to delay their reopenings in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty

Apple grabbed headlines this week when it told employees it would delay its office reopening until October or later. But the iPhone maker wasn't alone: At least two other Silicon Valley companies decided to delay their reopenings last week in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Both ServiceNow and Pure Storage opted to push back their September return-to-office dates last week, telling employees they can work remotely until at least the end of the year. Other companies may decide to exercise more caution given the current trends.

Keep Reading Show less
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.
Protocol | Workplace

Half of working parents have felt discriminated against during COVID

A new survey found that working parents at the VP level are more likely to say they've faced discrimination at work than their lower-level counterparts.

A new survey looks at discrimination faced by working parents during the pandemic.

Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

The toll COVID-19 has taken on working parents — particularly working moms — is, by now, well-documented. The impact for parents in low-wage jobs has been particularly devastating.

But a new survey, shared exclusively with Protocol, finds that among parents who kept their jobs through the pandemic, people who hold more senior positions are actually more likely to say they faced discrimination at work than their lower-level colleagues.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Latest Stories