By Rob Waugh Tech Correspondent For Dailymail.Com
If you thought folding phones and four-legged robots were futuristic, just wait to see what tech giants have in store for the near future.
DailyMail.com has looked at 12 of the most futuristic patents taken out by companies like Apple, Amazon and Google in recent years.
A patent is a government license that gives the holder exclusive rights to a new invention for a designated period of time.
They don’t always make it to the production line, but they can indicate what companies are working on.
Apple’s iPhone/Mac hybrid
It’s the ultimate two-in-one computing device (USPTO)
A 2017 Apple patent showed off a hybrid device that resembled a Mac laptop into which users can ‘dock’ an iPhone.
The patent describes, ‘An electronic accessory device, comprising: an operational component that provides an output to a user; a housing carrying the operational component, the housing having a recess.’
It is unclear how this will work, but the laptop will appear to be a display for the phone.
This would allow someone to use the bigger screen and full keyboard to play games or write notes on their phone.
No such device has ever been released.
Amazon’s floating fulfillment center
Could huge fulfillment centers float over our cities? (Midjourney)
Amazon filed the patent in 2018 (USPTO)
One day, could huge fulfillment centers float over cities, with Amazon drones darting down to the surface with deliveries?
Amazon takes the idea seriously enough that it patented the idea of ‘aerial fulfillment centers’ (or AFCs) in 2018.
The patent says, ‘An AFC may be positioned at an altitude above a metropolitan area and be designed to maintain an inventory of items that may be purchased by a user and delivered to the user by a UAV deployed from the AFC.’
In short, it will be a floating warehouse above the ground and attached to a blimp.
When you order a package, a drone will grab it from the blimp instead of being delivered by a truck and bring it down to your door.
Meta’s augmented reality hat
What an augmented reality hat might look like, imagined by Midjourney
Facebook’s patent for an augmented reality hat would relieve added weight on top of the head
In 2021, Facebook, now Meta, patented the idea of an ‘artificial reality hat,’ where lenses containing virtual or augmented reality screens could be mounted on a baseball cap or other headwear.
The cap is a standard baseball cap with goggles attached to it. They will allow a person to view the world through augmented reality.
The device also serves as just a normal hat, as the glasses can be tucked into its brim.
It might sound silly, but the idea is to reduce the amount of weight on the user’s nose compared to standard AR and VR glasses.
Meta has emerged as one of the leaders in this space, purchasing VR leader Oculus in 2014 and investing substantially into the Metaverse last year.
Apple’s windowless car
Could the Apple car look like this? Apple has several patents for its rumored self-driving car, with one describing the vehicle without windows
The car of the future might have no glass at all if one 2022 Apple patent is anything to go by.
Instead, passengers in the car would look ‘through’ the car’s solid body via VR headsets, seeing views generated by cameras.
The patent says, ”The VR system may provide virtual views that match visual cues with the physical motions that a passenger experiences.
Passengers could also enjoy high-quality VR experiences while driving – some of them controlled by the car’s own controls.
The patent says, ‘Active vehicle systems and/or vehicle control systems may be integrated with the VR system to provide physical effects with the virtual experiences.
Facebook’s emotion-detecting keyboard
The idea is to make messages match the sender’s emotional state (USPTO)
Imagine if your keyboard could detect your emotion from how you are typing (force, speed and so on) and add emojis and formatting to reflect that.
A 2017 Facebook patent, ‘Augmenting Text Messages With Emotion Information,’ does just that, adding emotion information based on input.
The idea is that messages can be more communicative – and avoid misinterpretation.
It will adjust messages to display the correct emotion someone is hoping to portray properly.
It is unclear how this will work, though.
Google’s camera walking stick
Google is building a walking stick that can record an entire 360 look around a person as they walk.
It is similar to what the firm already uses to catalog remote areas of the world where driving is not feasible.
They attach a camera on a pole to someone’s back and wander around, catching imagery as they move.
It is unclear how similar the consumer version of the product will be to the
You might be forgiven for thinking that Google had completely lost the plot with a 2013 patent for a camera walking stick – but similar devices are used in remote areas for Google Street View.
Google opted to patent the idea 10 years ago.
Amazon underground delivery tubes
Could your Amazon package arrive delivered in a pipe? (USPTO)
Could those trademark brown packages one day appear in your backyard, having traveled to your house via an underground tunnel?
Amazon patented the idea of a delivery system that could deliver packages underground via rails or even pneumatic tubes back in 2018.
The invention would use underground tunnels and conveyer belts to carry packages directly to someone’s home.
It is unclear how it will get from below ground to their front door as the retail giant continues to work out some of the kinks.
It is also unknown whether this underground network will work with the company’s plans to put fulfillment centers in the sky.
Google’s electronic throat tattoos
Google’s patent describes a throat tattoo that helps you get closer to your smartphone
Most people are happy to wear earpieces from the ‘Big Tech’ companies – but would you get a tattoo on your body?
A 2013 Google patent describes a ‘tattoo’ device that users can stick to their throats to communicate with their devices.
The patent says the device ‘comprises an electronic skin tattoo capable of being applied to a throat region of a body.’
The data the device on the neck would want to gather and send to the phone is unknown.
But similar arm patches and other devices are used to communicate information on blood sugar for diabetics so that this technology could be health use.
Apple’s ‘Privacy Goggles’ for iPhone and Mac
Could users wear privacy goggles to prevent others from seeing their screen? (Midjourney)
A 2021 patent by Apple suggests iPhone users could one day wear screen-unscrambling ‘privacy goggles’ so that nearby people can’t read what’s on screen.
The patent says, ‘If a user desires privacy or doesn’t want a nearby person to view what is presented on the display, the user may interact with the calibration graphic to make the graphical output illegible.
A person wearing the glasses would be the only one able to see what is happening on the computer screen.
It is unclear what kind of technology would be used and how the glasses would be built to decode it specifically.
Apple previously patented a similar idea for Mac computers.
Apple’s idea for preventing the recording of concerts
Now this is a good idea: Apple’s patent would stop people from recording at concerts
One 2016 Apple patent describes a system using infrared signals to prevent iPhone users from lifting up their handsets to record gigs.
As anyone who has been to a gig in recent years can attest, the system has never been commercialized.
But, it would force people to put away their phones during concerts and prevent the wave of recording devices from dominating a crowd.
It would be valuable for comedy and stage shows too, which already ban phones but may have a hard time making sure they confiscate each device at the door.
Gadgets controlled by scratching noises
Scratch, scratch, tap tap – the new way to control your gadgets
Most of us want to stop pesky scratching noises as soon as possible.
But Apple has patented a device that they say could actually be controlled by the sound of scratching or tapping.
Patented in 2013, the document describes how the noises could be used to control the futuristic gadget.
It is named the ‘Electronic Device Housing as Acoustic Input device’.
Developers have previously tried to make other devices that could be controlled via scratching, including glasses under development in 2017 that would let you read texts when you scratch your nose.
Floating data center
Google filed a patent in 2017 that puts data centers on the open waves (USPTO)
As if land-based data centers aren’t enough, Google has secured the rights to one that can float.
Patented in 2007, the system includes a ‘floating platform-mounted’ data center that could hold many ‘computing units’.
It also contains plans for a ‘sea-based electrical generator’ to power the facility and one or more units using seawater to cool the machines.
A computer data center is a facility that houses an organization’s core IT and computing services and infrastructure.
Google currently has at least five data centers based in Pryor in Oklahoma, Lenoir in North Carolina, The Dalles in Oregon, Council Bluff in Iowa and Berkely in South Carolina.
Its biggest, in Pryor, is also believed to be the second-biggest data center in the world and measures about 980,000 square feet — or is about the same size as 17 American football fields.
Sometimes tech companies such as Apple seem to patent gadgets which cannot plausibly happen, says Daniel Fletcher, an associate at Forbes Solicitors.
Fletcher says, ‘Apple is famous for registering strange patents and designs over products and inventions.’
But in most cases, patents protect companies as they explore new areas of business, Fletcher says.
For the tech giants, patenting strange ideas protects them in their ‘arms race’ against their rivals – and helps to reassure investors.
Fletcher says, ‘Patents broadly protect inventive steps and ‘new ways of doing things.’ Once granted, the owner has an exclusive right to use the patent for the claims that are covered, so in the case of large tech businesses such as Apple and Facebook, protecting that technology via a patent prevents others from getting in their first.
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