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.

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Should startups be scared?

Stock market turmoil is making VCs skittish. Could now be the best time to start a company?

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Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

This week, we break down why Elon Musk is tweeting about the S&P 500's ESG rankings — and why he might be right to be mad. Then we discuss how tech companies are failing to prevent mass shootings, and why the new Texas social media law might make it more difficult for platforms to be proactive.

Then Protocol's Biz Carson, author of the weekly VC newsletter Pipeline, joins us to explain the state of venture capital amidst plunging stocks and declining revenues. Should founders start panicking? The answer might surprise you.

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Caitlin McGarry

Caitlin McGarry is the news editor at Protocol.

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Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

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Chris Stokel-Walker

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Inside the Crypto Cannabis Club

As crypto crashes, an NFT weed club holds on to the high.

The Crypto Cannabis Club’s Discord has 23,000 subscribers, with 28 chapters globally.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

On a Saturday night in downtown Los Angeles, a group of high strangers gathered in a smoky, colorful venue less than a mile from Crypto.com Arena. The vibe was relaxed but excited, and the partygoers, many of whom were meeting each other for the very first time, greeted each other like old friends, calling each other by their Discord names. The mood was celebratory: The Crypto Cannabis Club, an NFT community for stoners, was gathering to celebrate the launch of its metaverse dispensary.

The warmth and belonging of the weed-filled party was a contrast to the metaverse store, which was underwhelming by comparison. But the dispensary launch and the NFTs required to buy into the group are just an excuse: As with most Web3 projects, it’s really about the community. Even though crypto is crashing, taking NFTs with it, the Crypto Cannabis Club is unphased, CEO Ryan Hunter told Protocol.

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Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

Fintech

Data privacy and harassment could spoil Grindr’s Wall Street romance

As it pursues a long-held goal of going public, the gay dating app has to confront its demons.

Grindr may finally be a public company.

Illustration: woocat/iStock/Getty Images Plus; Protocol

Grindr's looking for more than just a hookup with Wall Street. Finding a stable relationship may be tough.

The location-based dating app favored by gay men was a pioneer, predating Tinder by three years. It’s bounced from owner to owner after founder Joel Simkhai sold it in 2018 for $245 million. A SPAC merger could be the answer, but businesses serving the LGBTQ+ community have had trouble courting investors. And Grindr has its own unique set of challenges.

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Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering breaking news. 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.

Climate

The minerals we need to save the planet are getting way too expensive

Supply chain problems and rising demand have sent prices spiraling upward for the minerals and metals essential for the clean energy transition.

Critical mineral prices have exploded over the past year.

Photo: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The newest source of the alarm bells echoing throughout the renewables industry? Spiking critical mineral and metal prices.

According to a new report from the International Energy Agency, a maelstrom of rising demand and tattered supply chains have caused prices for the materials needed for clean energy technologies to soar in the last year. And this increase has only accelerated since 2022 began.

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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).

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