This week in patents: Fishing space debris

This week in patents: Fishing space debris

This week, the US patent office issued 5974 patents.

Each patent adds a little something new to the human knowledge base. As we cannot list all six thousand, the PatentYogi team has selected the five most interesting patents.

Google has invented next generation photography camera for smartphones
Patent Number: US 9,467,620


Most professional DSLR cameras provide an option to use different types of lens for different situations to get that perfect shot. For example, a wide angle lens for wide shots, a fisheye lens for extreme wide-angle lenses with an angle of view of up to 180 degrees or more, a macro lens for extreme close-up work, and telephoto lens to bring distant objects closer.

Smartphones lack this capability. The form factor of smartphones is not suitable for providing mounts for interchangeable lens. Although, some third party mounts and lens are available for smartphones, but it is cumbersome to use them.

Google has invented a way out of this problem by developing synthetic camera lens. These synthetic lens simulate different types of camera lens on a single smartphone by guiding a user through a set of images to be captured in connection with one or more desired lens effects.

For example, a wide-angle lens is simulated by taking multiple images at a particular location over a set of camera orientations that are determined based on the selection of the wide-angle lens. The smartphone provides prompts to the user indicating the camera orientations for which images should be captured in order to generate the simulated camera lens effect.

Upon capturing the multiple images needed for the selected lens type, the smartphone then combines the captured images to generate a combined image. For example, the captured images may be combined through the process of image stitching. In addition, the stitched images may be processed so as to produce a desired optical effect for the selected lens type. For example, the stitched images may be mapped onto a particular projection, such as for example, rectilinear, cylindrical, spherical, Panini, or stereographic.

For example – A user may select a fisheye lens type, having an angle of view between 100 and 180 degrees. The actual lens of camera in a smartphone may have an angle of view less than 70 degrees. Therefore, the smartphone captures multiple images, which are then combined to generate an image consistent with the desired lens type. Then, the smartphone processes the captured images to simulate the curvilinear distortion that is produced by a fisheye lens.

Boeing plans to launch rockets from carrier aircraft
Patent Number: US 20160298948


Boeing has big plans for future space missions.

Earlier this month, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg revealed Boeing’s plans for commercial space-travel market including hypersonic aircraft shuttling travelers between continents. He also challenged SpaceX by declaring that Boeing would beat SpaceX by sending humans to Mars first.

A recent patent application discloses Boeing’s plan to deploy a rocket from a carrier aircraft.

The carrier aircraft defines an interface envelope.  The rocket is secured to an underbelly of the carrier aircraft’s fuselage. The rocket includes four pivotable rocket motors. With pivotable rocket motors in their stowed positions, the rocket fits within the interface envelope. Two of the pivotable rocket motors face the belly of the carrier aircraft, and the other two pivotable rocket motors face the ground.

The carrier aircraft takes off and flies to a target altitude, speed and attitude. Then, the carrier aircraft releases the rocket. As the rocket is released, spring-loaded housings urge the rocket towards their deployed positions. After the rocket is moved to their deployed positions and the rocket is safely away from the carrier aircraft, the rocket motors are ignited. Once a rocket is ignited, its thrust force is much larger than any of the other forces (aerodynamic, inertial or structural) acting on the rocket. Therefore, stable orientation of the rocket motor is maintained during flight.

IBM invents a smart air conditioner
Patent Number: US 9,465,392


Air conditioning (or controlled ambient temperature) is ubiquitous in all indoor settings such as meeting rooms, class rooms, auditoriums, and theaters across the world.

Air conditioners need a lot of energy during operation. A typical room air conditioner uses 10-20 times as much electricity as a ceiling fan. However, the costs of energy and attendant energy processing have been increasing due to rising energy demands resulting from worldwide industrialization and the depletion of the energy resources in the world. Yet, the demand for air conditioning is increasing every year. For example, in China, sales of air conditioners have nearly doubled over the last five years.  Worldwide power consumption for air conditioning alone is forecast to surge 33-fold by 2100 as developing world incomes rise and urbanization advances.

Also, the disposal and recycling of the by-products of energy consumption have given rise to increasing costs and potential health problems with energy consumption waste products. Air conditioning is doubly polluting: they are powered by energy produced from fossil fuels; further, they use HFCs and other refrigerants cooling systems which cause global warming. Therefore, there is a need to reduce energy consumption using air conditioners.

IBM plans to use the digital processing to bring down the costs and effects of energy consumption. Specifically, IBM has developed a system to achieve optimum temperatures in rooms containing people to minimize energy waste and maximize the temperature related comfort of the people in the room. The system directly and dynamically senses the body temperatures of one or more people in the room. The sensed body temperatures are wirelessly transmitted to be correlated a set of parameters. In response to this correlation, a selected optimum room temperature is provided by appropriate heating or cooling.

Further, the number or proportion of people in the room who are temperature sensed can be varied from only one person to all of the people in the room. The hosts of a function can determine whose body temperature should be monitored dependent upon the circumstances of the presentation in the room. Person may be selected based on their significance, for example, a minister delivering a sermon or a chief executive at a stockholders meeting. Further, the people may be chosen based on the extent of their activity, e.g. a set of performers in a theater may be chosen.

Moreover, wristbands may be give to people whose body temperature will be monitored. The wristband would include a minute temperature sensor and a short range RF transmitter.

Fishing space debris
Patent Number: US 9,463,884


Currently, a huge number of satellites are orbiting the earth. When the satellites fail and become non-functional or end their duty and reach the end of their service life, the satellites are often left in orbit as they are and become space debris. Also, wreckage of a rocket or the like used for launching a satellite or the like is also left in orbit as space debris.

There are over 500,000 pieces of debris orbiting the Earth. They travel at speeds up to 18,000 mph. This is about seven times faster than a bullet. Since it is moving so quickly, a tiny piece of orbital debris can cause a lot of damage.

Further, a phase of self-reproduction has started now, in which the number of pieces is increased by natural collisions. In order to stop the self-reproduction of the space debris, at least about 5 pieces of space debris need to be removed yearly. Space debris is attracted by terrestrial gravitation, and falls and disappears eventually, however, a gravity fall requires many years and it is not efficient. Therefore, IHI Aerospace has developed a space debris removing spacecraft for positively removing space debris.

The space debris is generally orbiting while undergoing an irregular rotating motion (tumbling motion). This makes it difficult to remove the debris.

The space debris removing spacecraft propels itself to approach and control attitude to target debris which is the space debris to be removed. Further, it includes a capture device (such as harpoon), which is ejected toward the target debris. A wire connects the harpoon with the space debris removing spacecraft. The spacecraft first observes motion of the target debris and calculates a capture position and a capture attitude at which the harpoon can be driven into a hollow portion of the target debris. Once the harpoon latches onto the target debris, it is decelerated.

The advantage of using the harpoon is that it can be driven from a position away from the target debris, and even when the target debris is undergoing the tumbling motion, the target debris can be captured in the state that the space debris removing spacecraft and the target debris do not collide.

NASA has also developed and patented spacecrafts to capture space debris. Please check our video below to see how NASA’s spacecraft works. The video uses the famous space debris “Black Knight” as an example.

Virtual Reality Exercise Game
Patent Number: US 20160300390


Physical exercise is performed for various reasons, including strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, honing athletic skills, and weight loss or maintenance.

The U.S. Center of Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get about four hours of physical activity each week. Americans, on average, fall short of these recommendations. Often people ignore physical exercise as they find it boring.

People spend huge sums of money on health club memberships yearly that 67% percent never use. Most home fitness equipment goes into disuse within months of purchase.

A company called VirZOOM has invented a new form of exercise using Virtual Reality. People love to play video games. Video games provide an interesting immersive experience to users.

Accordingly, VirZOOM has developed a bike with integrated sensors that measure the pedaling speed. The riders wear a VR headset while riding the bike. The faster they pedal in the real world, the faster they move in the virtual world. Riders can steer by leaning their body to each side. Further, action buttons, triggers and d-pad on the handlebars enable advanced game-play. Riders can control movement of bikes, cars, tanks and horses in the virtual reality using the bike.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

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