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This article was published on July 18, 2019

Full moon patents: Disney’s immersive VR and Microsoft’s next-gen virtual assistant

Full moon patents: Disney’s immersive VR and Microsoft’s next-gen virtual assistant

Ugh, the Gregorian calendar is so boring. That’s why we’re disrupting monthly series with a lunar cycle-based series about the best patents of the last synodic month, picked by the PatentYogi team. Get ready when that moon gets gibbous, y’all. This June-ish roundup lands on the tasty Strawberry Moon!

Since my last post, the US patent office issued over 31,961 patents and published over 24,383 patent applications. Each patent asset adds a little something new to the human knowledge base. As I cannot list all these patent assets here, the PatentYogi team has selected the five most interesting patent assets. Enjoy!

Microsoft will transform how you engage with your virtual assistant (20190187787)

There are a number of virtual assistants that you use through your devices: Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, and Cortana are the most prominent examples. You need to talk to them in a fixed syntax to engage with them, which feels unnatural and odd. But, Microsoft is set to revolutionize the way in which we interact with these virtual assistants.

According to a recently published patent application, Microsoft has developed a system that will allow non-verbal interaction with virtual assistants. Imagine that you’re working on your PC, and you wish to listen to some music or open up your browser. As shown in the figure above, you will only need to look at the Cortana icon on your screen, without saying “Hey Cortana.”

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The system will use gaze detection to determine that you want to engage Cortana. Cortana will wake-up and greet you with phrases like “How may I help you?” You can then proceed with your desired task.

Microsoft aims to transform how you engage with your virtual assistant
Microsoft aims to transform how you engage with your virtual assistant

The system will also consider contextual information from your device. For example, if you are watching a video and you suddenly say “What was that?” referring to something on your screen. Then, the system will analyze your speech through Natural Language Processing (NLP), and given the context of the content playing on your screen, analyze your query to give you relevant results.

The system will also be able to know if you are addressing your virtual assistant, or are talking to someone else.This technology will make our conversations with virtual assistants seamless and natural. I can’t wait for Microsoft to roll out this feature in a Windows update.

Facebook to function as a matchmaker (20190190874)

US20190190874 describes how Facebook could operate as a matchmaker
US20190190874 describes how Facebook could operate as a matchmaker

Facebook is designed to connect people and help build relationships. You connect with people online via Facebook but you may shy away from meeting people physically. The main reason behind this is the fear of getting rejected in initiating a social activity.

Moreover, a considerable amount of effort is involved in finding people, then planning and coordinating a meeting. A recently published patent application from Facebook indicates that Facebook will help in finding a perfect match for you to hang out with in real life.

Facebook will analyze your profile to find other users who would be interested in hanging out with you based on your common interests. Facebook will then send messages to the identified users to check if they are interested in connecting with you for a particular activity, such as going for dinner (as shown in the figure above), going for a date, going for a movie, and so on. Then, Facebook will analyze the responses from the users and suggest you meet at least one of them at a suitable location at a specific time. You can also deny the recommendation if you are not interested.

This should be pretty cool as Facebook has one of the largest people databases in the world. It could be fun to meet new people suggested by this feature.

You can enjoy travel on flights alongside your pet (20190202564)

If you are a pet owner, then it must be pretty hard for you to schedule and plan travel. Often you have to leave your pets with friends, family or at pet boarding centers. However, leaving your pet for a long duration may be emotionally exhausting for both you and your pet. Therefore, some people, who do not fare well to the long separation from their pets, carry their pets along in pet carriers during travel.

On flights, the pet carriers are transported as accompanied checked baggage, as the pets are often not allowed in the cabin of the aircraft. This may be stressful for pets. But according to a recent patent publication, Boeing has developed a high-tech pet travel system to securely and safely transport pets.

The pet travel system includes bunks for pets within the cabin of the aircraft. The bunks are installed along with the overhead bins. The bunks are designed to accommodate and securely store specially designed pet carriers. So the passengers can carry their pets in these pet carriers and can place the pet carriers in the overhead bunks near their seats.


US20190202564A1 describes pet travel systems in a vehicle
US20190202564A1 describes pet travel systems in a vehicle

The pet carriers will be available in different sizes to accommodate different types of pets. The pet carrier is a ventilated cushioned box with a transparent door to allow for eye contact between the pet and pet owner. Also, it is soundproof to muff the voice of the pet that may disturb the co-passengers. Further, a lighting and feeding system is installed in the pet carrier to regularly feed the pet. The pet carrier is equipped with a camera, microphone, and a wireless communication system. So, the pet owner can access the live footage of their pet on their mobile device, as shown in the figure above.

The system allows you to keep an eye on your pets and be assured of their safety and comfort during the entire duration of travel. Bon voyage!

Uber will help make friends during rides (20190190881)

When you use carpool services, like Uber Pool, you encounter complete strangers during rides. These rides may be uncomfortable because of the awkward silence between you and the co-passengers. Starting a conversation is also arduous because you are not familiar with them. This is the very problem that Uber is addressing now.

As per a recently published patent application, Uber has developed a transport arrangement service that is integrated with passengers’ social network profiles, like Instagram and Facebook. Uber will match your profile with your co-passengers’ to find common points of interests, including shared hobbies, common friends, common professions, and common companies.

US20190190881A1 describes a system for helping co-passengers in taxis break the ice
US20190190881A1 describes a system for helping co-passengers in taxis break the ice

Further, the common interests will be shared with you and your co-passengers to give you a conversation starter, as shown in the figure above. With the transport arrangement service, the pool rides will be more enjoyable, and you could potentially make friends during every ride.

Experience virtual worlds like never before with Disney’s immersive tech (20190192965)

Nowadays you can experience the virtual world using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology. Head-mounted display devices (HMDs) are available in the market that can help you dive into the virtual world and interact with the virtual world to some extent. Although, these technologies paint quite a convincing picture of presenting virtual word.

However, they may not fully engage you as you will be able to see and hear the objects or people in the virtual world but you cannot feel, sense or smell them.

According to a recent patent publication, Disney has developed a gadget called air-flow generator that helps to simulate the effect of touching and/or smelling a virtual object created using AR and VR. The gadget enhances the virtual world experience by adding extra dimensions of smell and haptics to the virtual object.

US20190192965 describes how VR tech could add another dimension to immersive experiences
US20190192965 describes how VR tech could add another dimension to immersive experiences

For example, the air-flow generator blows out a gush of air based on the movement of a virtual object such as a sword-swinging, or an animal moving past you. It can also release a scented liquid to the air to simulate particular smells such the smell of soil, or the scent of a flower.

The HMD, along with the air-flow generator, will simulate the virtual world in a very realistic manner. Hopefully Disney won’t keep us waiting too long for this.

Look out for the latest lunar cycle-based patent update every full moon. Next up is the gorgeous Sturgeon Moon in mid-August. See you then!

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