Power

Microsoft wants to make meetings sound better

Apple wants more-accurate fitness results, and more patent filings from Big Tech.

Microsoft wants to make meetings sound better

Don't forget to mute yourself!

Photo: Jon Tyson /Unsplash

It was kind of a slow week in terms of patents that were filed, but there were still a few things that caught my eye. Both Apple and Google want to improve how your watch and phone track your activity and your brain. And Microsoft wants to make your meetings less noisy.

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.

Alphabet

More-accurate activity tracking

I have an Apple Watch, and I'm probably as excited about its fitness-tracking capabilities as I was when it was first announced in 2014. In addition to giving me reminders to stand and letting me know that my activity rings need some work, it also accurately shows me how many calories I've burned … or so I thought!

Google filed a patent that would make fitness trackers even more accurate, by not only using the accelerometer to determine what type of exercise I'm doing, but by using information from other types of media I might be consuming while I work out, such as a cardio video. That means my activity tracker could track that during my cardio workout, I did push-ups, jumping jacks and burpees. Hopefully it wouldn't track me hunched over crying and breathing hard after doing push-ups, jumping jacks and burpees.

Apple

Better reminders

Apple also seems to be interested in improving the accuracy of things, this time with making reminders work a little easier (and better). The filing imagines various ways to set reminders, like reminding me to do something while I'm doing something else. For example, I could set a reminder that says "Tell Mom about the TV show" that reminds me to do it the next time I'm talking to my mom. Or if I park the car in a far-away spot, I could speak into my phone, ask it to remind me where I parked and it would drop a pin on a map.

Just a simple reminder to join the meeting and mute everything.Image: USPTO

Microsoft

Reducing audio feedback

No matter which videoconferencing software you use, there are a few key things to remember: Mute yourself when you're not talking, unmute yourself when you are talking and turn your camera off if you're still in your pajamas. All those rules will still hold true when we get back to the office, with one addition: If more than one person in a room is in the same video meeting, you have to remember to mute, otherwise the feedback-echoing, horrible, howling noise will spoil the entire meeting.

This patent from Microsoft aims to help save your meetings with a clever reminder to mute yourself and turn off your audio when you join an in-progress meeting in the same room as someone else. In some instances, the system might even preemptively mute the first computer as a second person joins. Just be sure to change out of your pajamas before that meeting. If you want.

A better way to search

Website search results — especially from content publishers — are notoriously hit or miss. Depending on the site, a search query might have to be exact, or you might have to learn Boolean search strings to find what you're looking for. Implementing search solutions can be costly, so websites often incorporate Google search into their site search. But those results can sometimes pull in search results from other websites, and the branding on the search results is all Google, which could be confusing.

This patent outlines a way for search results to be co-branded with either a favicon or site logo from the content publisher. This could help the user feel confident that the search results are, in fact, from the content publisher they're looking at. This patent doesn't go as far as improving the search results themselves, but at least you'll know where the results are coming from.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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