This week, the US patent office issued 6,528 patents.
Each patent adds a little something new to the human knowledge base.
As we can’t list all six thousand, the PatentYogi team has selected the five most interesting patents.
Amazon to build ‘birdhouses’ for Drones
With newer applications developed each day, drones are set to go a long a way and in some cases, quite literally.
Drones can now travel tens of miles, for example, to delivery a package. But every long journey is not without obstacles and can be quite tiring even for drones.
Akin to rest houses that help refresh travellers, Amazon now plans to build “birdhouses” for drones to serve the same purpose.
These birdhouses (called docking stations in the patent) are designed to act as a temporary resting place that can be used to recharge the drone or simply provide shelter during bad weather.
The docking stations are deployed on light poles, cell phone towers, church steeples and pretty much any structure where you might expect to find a conventional birdhouse.
The positions of these docking stations is known to all drones traveling in a particular region. Therefore, when a situation such as bad weather is detected, a drone can automatically change its flight plan to land onto the nearest available docking station. While there, the drone may recharge its batteries, download or upload data, even refill hydrocarbon fuel. Additionally, the docking stations may include a facility where the drone may leave its package to be carried by another drone.
Once this is rolled out, you may see drones perched on electric poles besides birds, just resting.
US Navy reinvents the wheel
As if following the adage “everything can be improved,” the US navy has reinvented the humble wheel.
It looks like any other wheel from outside. But the similarities end right there.
This wheel is so different from its long standing predecessor, that the patent actually describes it as a fully sufficient propulsion system.
While a regular wheel is driven from an external force such as a rotating axle, this patented wheel is driven internally.
But that’s not all, it does not use any mechanically moving parts like gears that are subject to wear.
So how does it work?
Inside the wheel, electromagnets are arranged around the periphery while a magnetic fluid is situated in the central region. When these electromagnets are selectively turned-on, the magnetic fluid gets attracted and moves towards those electromagnets. As a result, the centre of gravity of the wheel shifts causing the wheel to rotate. By controlling the sequence of activating these electromagnets, a sustained rotation can be imparted to this wheel in any direction. So not only is this a self-propelling wheel, but also an omni-directional wheel.
While this could in principle replace wheels everywhere, for now the US navy intends to use them for Robots.
Intel develops a system to use personal drones to provide network connectivity
Drones are no longer restricted to being operated by military or government personnel. Increasingly, the drones are being operated by individuals or commercial entities. Further, they are become cheaper as well.
Intel wants to use drones to provide wireless connectivity to people.
People often deal with a bad or missing connection. In such scenarios, a person may utilize a personal drone — one associated with a user’s phone — to transmit messages and receive data at another geographic location where a connection is stronger. Therefore, the technical problem of a bad or missing network connection is solved by using a personal drone. The drones will kind of act like messenger pigeons.
Similarly, the drones can help a user watching an online video. If the phone detects a loss of connectivity, a drone associated with the user device is dispatched to retrieve the media. The drone navigates to the location with stronger connection and connects to a network to retrieve the video. Then the drone returns back to the location of the user and syncs the loaded video over a network.
Intel has heavily invested in drones. Last year, Intel showcased the world’s first public drone performance as part of Vivid Sydney. 100 illuminated drones performed a spectacular choreographed routine over Sydney Harbor.
Intel is working with AT&T to use drones to provide network connectivity.
Google has filed a patent for a smart calendar
Electronic calendars are increasingly being used to keep track of important events and organize daily schedules.
However, entering event details into the calendar system can be tedious and time-consuming. Further, manually typed information can also be prone to errors because users may sometimes enter the wrong information. For example, a user may enter the time of a meeting with a manager as 10 pm instead of 10 am. Furthermore, users’ schedules may change or need to be updated when new events are either scheduled or occur in users’ lives. For example, a user may need to go on an unexpected business trip to London and forget that he has concert tickets in San Francisco during the trip. If the user had remembered, he might have been able to sell the concert tickets.
Google’s smart calendar system will be able to identify such errors and notify the users about potential scheduling problems in their calendars.
The system parses user logs to obtain user behavior and determine whether the event details are consistent. For example, the user logs also include GPS information. Based on a user’s given location, X, after 9 pm over the course of several days, the system learns that a user is at location X if the time is after 9 pm on any given day. A location Y is 30 minutes from location X. If a user tries to schedule a meeting at location Y for 9:15 pm, the system infers that the user may not reach location Y in time for the meeting and propose that the user reschedule the meeting.
Furthermore, the system creates a set of rules created from the obtained user behavior. It may include determining the user’s location or predicted location at the date and time of the event and comparing the user’s location to the event’s location. Further, it determines if the venue of the event location at a venue has business hours and if the meeting at the venue is consistent with the business hours. For example, a user, Koji had a business associate, Jeff. If Koji schedules a meeting with Jeff, the system assumed that the meeting is a business meeting. If Koji tries to schedule an event entitled “meeting” at 12 am with Jeff, the system assumes that this meeting is a business meeting. The system understands that normal business hours do not occur at 12 am by using pre-stored rules and information. Therefore, the system provides the user with a notification or alert the user in some way to the problematic meeting time. An example notification may be an alert with text such as “Business meeting at midnight? Did you mean 12 pm?”
Nike has developed a new vest to help athletes lose heat quickly
When competing and training, the athletes face a challenge of heat dissipation, as they generate substantial heat energy as a result of physical activity. The body relies on a mechanism based on evaporative cooling of sweat to cool the body.
However, evaporation of sweat is dependent on the water vapor pressure (e.g., relative humidity) of air in contact with the athlete’s skin. Therefore, air movement along the athlete’s skin becomes an import factor in dissipating the heat energy from the athlete. For example, ambient air gains humidity as it picks up moisture during the evaporation of sweat. In the absence of adequate air movement (e.g., exchange of air along the skin), this humidified air becomes less effective at dissipating heat as it is trapped in areas surrounding the skin. As a result, reduced or minimized airflow along the skin’s surface inhibits the cooling provided by continued evaporation of sweat.
Nike has developed a vest which includes air vents along the seams. These vents are designed to direct air towards a body of a wearer. The vents are shaped and oriented with an angle of attack that redirects air from the exterior of the vest to the interior to increase air movement along a wearer’s skin. This increases the rate of evaporation of sweat and consequently cools the skin much more rapidly.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.