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This article was published on September 12, 2016

Kickass new patents: Hail a self-driving shopping cart like you hail a cab

Kickass new patents: Hail a self-driving shopping cart like you hail a cab
Deepak Gupta
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Deepak Gupta

Deepak is the founder of patent services firm PatentYogi, a new kind of patent services firm that simplifies the patent process for the inve Deepak is the founder of patent services firm PatentYogi, a new kind of patent services firm that simplifies the patent process for the inventors across the globe. They provide free patentability search service for individual inventors and startups. He also runs a YouTube channel, PatentYogi, where he publishes videos on patents. For interesting daily updates on patents, check their Instagram and Facebook.

This week, the US patent office issued 6,794 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.

Walmart wants self-driving shopping carts because pushing is too exhausting

Patent Number – US 20160260161

If you thought shoppers at Walmart are pampered enough already with motorized shopping carts, read on to be surprised. Walmart plans to further spoil its customers by even avoiding the act of reaching to a shopping cart. Instead, the motorized and self-driven shopping cart would reach the customer irrespective of where the customer is located within the store. This is akin to hailing a cab at the press of a button which arrives exactly where you are.

To make this happen, the technology uses motorized transport units that are capable of being remotely controlled by a central computer. These motorized transport units are also configured to releasably attach themselves to existing shopping carts by sliding under them. This allows them to fetch shopping carts from a storage area and bring them to the location where a customer is present.

All that a customer needs to do is press a button either on their smartphone or a special mobile device provided by the store. This initiates a process of determining the current location of the customer which is then provided to the central computer. The central computer then transmits a wireless signal to one of many motorized transport units providing the location of the customer. The motorized transport unit then undocks itself and begins navigating itself to the shopping cart storage area to fetch an empty shopping cart. After engaging with the shopping cart, the motorized transport unit autonomously safely navigates itself through the store to reach the customer’s location. Upon arriving at the customer’s location, the motorized transport unit may detach itself from the shopping cart allowing the customer to use the shopping cart. Alternatively, the motorized transport unit may continue navigating based on navigation instructions from the customer’s mobile device, while remaining attached to the shopping cart.

We wonder what else is up Walmart’s innovative sleeves. Perhaps, products that automatically fly off the shelf and right into the shopping cart!

Smartphone based Virtual Reality display just got better

Patent Number – US 20160259169

There is a slew of wearable VR displays that need nothing more than a case to hold your smartphone and a strap to wear it over your eyes. But most of these devices struggle to provide stereoscopic vision while also maintaining comfort. In particular, providing a truly 3D view requires presenting distinct images to the left and right eyes. Since the field of views of the right and left eyes overlap, some part of the smartphone screen is visible to both eyes. While some designers have chosen to ignore this as a minor artefact, others have decided to treat this as a dead zone that is not used for displaying. In either case, the user is robbed of a completely immersive 3D experience.

Inventors at Lockheed Martin have however looked the other way by designing a wearable device that ensures that each eye gets distinct images without sacrificing on any screen area. They have achieved this with the use of a pair of Fresnel lenses that sit in front of each eye on a spectacle like frame. These Fresnel lenses create distinct optical paths originating from two separate regions on the display screen of the smartphone onto the respective eye. As a result, there is no overlap between the images seen by either eyes providing a truly stereoscopic vision.    

Flaunt your biometric signatures on your smartphone case thanks to Google

Patent Number – US 20160260149

Smartphone users often like to personalize their device with designer cases, stickers and other accessories.  

It would be really cool to flaunt your biometric data on accessories associated with various electronic devices, such as smartphone cases, watch wristbands, and many other electronic accessories.

Google has developed a biometric designer technology that captures and prints biometric data, such as a waveform representation of speech or heart beats of the user. A biometric designer software module is connected to a printer that directly prints these waveforms on accessories for electronic devices, such as smartphone cases, watch bands, and laptop cases. Further, the biometric designer module sends images of the captured biometric data to be used as wallpapers on the various electronic devices.

With this technology, users can personalize their gadget’s accessories with their unique biometric signatures. For example, a smartphone user may print his/her voice’s waveform image on the smartphone case which makes the gadget more appealing to the user.     

Google wants to install a Big Brother system in your home… and you just may like it

Patent Number – US 20160260320

Soon you may plan a long vacation, attend late-night parties, or engage in any critical work while leaving your home at big brother’s disposal. The big brother administers your home security, lighting systems, smart devices, thermostats system, and many other household activities.

This all could happen in reality as Google is developing a big brother system that can be deployed at your home. The system includes multiple sensors spread all across the home. These sensors include passive infrared (PIR) sensor, GPS receivers, accelerometers, microphones, optical sensors and vapor sensors. The sensors send the sensed data via a network interface to a central policy manager, which manages all the policies set by various household users.

Household users can also set goals with the big brother system. Each member of the household creates their own personalized goals. For example, the big brother system can be configured to conserve power when nobody is at home. Users can also set specific goals such as “Spend less time on electronic devices” or “Use 5% less energy each month for the next 3 months.” Similarly, the system can be used to detect the presence of undesirable activities involving poisonous compounds, alcohol, and tobacco.

The system sends alerts or warnings to users when a relevant activity or an event occurs. For example, it may send an alert to respective users if they are spending more time on electronic devices.

The system will most likely be a part of Google’s Nest product line.  

US Army develops a mannequin capable of simulating a live traumatic bleeding situation for trauma training

Patent Number – US 20160260357

Critical care givers, such as first responders, medics, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are trained to provide help in many emergency situations accident, natural disaster, terrorist attack or even wars.

Therefore, trauma training systems, such as mannequins, are used to train the critical care givers in a variety of medical situations such as CPR and other emergency room situations. These systems simulate many health conditions and help the care givers get a “feel” of a real emergency situation.

Existing trauma training systems are not yet capable of dynamic and realistic bleeding simulation to replicate a live traumatic bleeding situation. Bleeding wounds such as hemorrhages are quite common during wars. You may recall the scene from Saving Private Ryan, when the soldiers land on the Normandy beach. Many soldiers were shown to be bleeding profusely when stuck by bullets.

US Army has now developed a trauma training system that accurately simulates a hemorrhage. The system includes a mannequin and a reservoir housed in the mannequin. One or more wound sites are disposed on the mannequin. A flow controller delivers fake blood from the reservoir to the wound site to simulate a hemorrhage. The flow controller delivers a pulsating flow to reflect blood being pumped by a “heart”. Multiple flow lines deliver the fake blood to multiple wound sites simultaneously.

The system also reacts (using audio) to the actions and choice made by the trainee such that more specialized and realistic training is possible.

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