When discussing technological innovations, it’s nearly impossible to overstate the activities going on at the headquarters of Google Inc. in Mountain View, CA. In recent years, this corporation has been very interested in acquiring Internet technologies and services of interest to millions of their users, evidenced by the company’s latest decision to invest $50 million for a minority stake in the real estate service website Auction.com. The company has also been busy developing its new Google Glass technology, and people are now getting an idea of what kind of apps this new device will utilize. In June, the company will unveil a new smartwatch developed in partnership with LG, complete with a new smartwatch-centric operating system.
Google is a favorite among the corporations profiled here on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series because of its development of interesting consumer technologies. As we check back in for our latest round with the company, we see that it hasn’t slowed its activities with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We found an intriguing assortment of new technologies created by this company, especially those related to Google’s mobile device innovations.
The featured patent application for today highlights a novel system of using mobile devices to improve something millions of Americans do every day: order out for food. This Internet-based system of ordering enables more precise delivery, better estimation of arrival times as well as secure payments for food and other items. We also profile some patent applications pertaining to speech recognition technologies and online searches for flight itineraries.
Google has one of the strongest patent portfolios among American technological firms, and we’ve uncovered a list of recently issued patents from the USPTO that improve the user experience for online and mobile technologies. We discuss three patents that protect new ways of interacting with a smartphone through novel gestures, including a system that can convert words from an image into digital text. We also look into a patent that protects new methods of ranking news stories online for the Google News reader.
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Ordering Ahead With a Mobile Device
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140058901
For decades now, the telephone has been the primary tool for Americans who are trying to complete one very important job: ordering food. Many people, especially those on a busy schedule who cannot cook for themselves, will come home and call up a local pizzeria or other take-out place and then pick up their food when it’s done. Without the telephone, there’s no simple way to establish communication between an individual and a restaurant.
However, there are various drawbacks to current telephone ordering methods, which haven’t changed much since restaurants started allowing phone-in orders for take-out and delivery. For example, some orders placed by an individual are never picked up or paid for, costing the business owner money on the order. Also, delivery times are often estimated and can change based on the complexity of the order without the customer’s knowledge or consent.
This patent application was filed by Google with the USPTO to protect a system of calling ahead to order food or another item, such as a pharmaceutical prescription, for later pickup and delivery. This system collects input from a user’s electronic device, most likely through an app, to order ahead, and the order is communicated to a merchant over a network. The system also determines the device’s location and collects information on preparation times for different components of an order, providing a more accurate result for finish times.
Merchants can update their inventory and product preparation times stored on this system’s database, and this system will analyze and determine whether a merchant has the proper ingredients and manpower to finish the order on schedule. If the system determines that a merchant doesn’t have the proper ingredients or labor, the order will be ended. The app can also conduct payment for the order as it is made. This program could also be used to place different types of orders, such as reservations for a restaurant to reflect an anticipated arrival time.
As Claim 1 of this Google patent application would give the company the right to protect:
“A computer-implemented method to order ahead with a mobile device, comprising: receiving, by an application executing on a user network device associated with a user, an input of an order from the user, the order comprising at least one component and being associated with a merchant that will fill the order; communicating, by the application executing on the user network device, the order to a merchant network device associated with the merchant, the merchant network device being separate and distinct from the user network device; receiving, by the application executing on the user network device, a preparation time for each component of the order; determining, by the application executing on the user network device, a location of the user network device; monitoring, by the application executing on the user network device, a projected time of travel from the location of the user network device to the location of the merchant based on the location of the user device and a location of the merchant; determining, by the application executing on the user network device, whether the projected time of travel equals the component preparation time for any component of the order; and notifying, by the application executing on the user network device, the merchant network device to begin preparation of a particular component of the order in response to a determination that the projected time of travel equals the preparation time for the particular component of the order.”
Other Patent Applications
The halls of the USPTO are largely populated by Google’s recent innovations, as this corporation will regularly receive upwards of 50 patents or more each week. This also means that a great deal of patent applications are being published every week, outlining some intriguing new developments from one of the world’s largest developers of consumer technologies for the Internet. Today, we’re noticing that Google, long associated with text-based searches, is trying to improve its speech and visual recognition technologies for searching as well. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140058728, entitled Speech Recognition with Parallel Recognition Tasks, would protect a system that would return speech recognition results more quickly by using multiple speech recognition services. The system also uses a confidence threshold level that stops speech recognition processing if the confidence value in the result reaches a certain point.
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140046935, which is titled Identifying Textual Terms in Response to a Visual Query, describes a method of mapping textual results to a visual image query so that an Internet user could perform a search based on an image.
Novel digital systems of planning for and obtaining transportation information are the focal point of another pair of patent applications that intrigued us today. First, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140053077, titled Integrating Maps and Street Views, improves upon the Google Maps software used by millions through better integrations of aerial maps into street views. Street view is helpful for viewing houses and other buildings at their exact address, but this system will make it easier to navigate a local area while in street view. Flight information can be obtained through Google’s search engine in a quicker fashion thanks to the system laid out in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140052714, filed under the title Flights Search. This system can determine whether a search query is seeking flight information a return potential flight results based on certain parameters, such as a maximum price or flight duration.
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Issued Patents of Note
Although patent applications can give the general public an idea of what technological developments a corporation has been working on, its the issued patents that determine what a company can legally protect in their name. In today’s Companies We Follow column, IPWatchdog has found a number of interesting patents related to gestural inputs on computing devices as well as some other improvements to Google’s suite of online software applications, widely available to Internet browsers.
A trio of recently issued patents protect systems that enable humans to interact with electronic devices in novel ways with our hands. For example, U.S. Patent No. 8667414, which is titled Gestural Input at a Virtual Keyboard, protects a system of text input prediction that incorporates gesture input by mapping the pattern of a user’s fingers on a virtual keyboard. U.S. Patent No. 8666199, which is titled Gesture-Based Selection Text Recognition, protects a system that enables users to select words from images for conversion to digital text by underlining those words with their finger. User experiences with mobile devices may also become more personalized through the system protected by U.S. Patent No. 8665238, entitled Determining a Dominant Hand of a User of a Computing Device. This system allows app developers to create even more complex user interfaces that can be optimized based on a user’s dominant hand.
Besides Internet search engines, Google is also well known for its various document viewing, mapping and news reader software available through its main website. We saw a couple of patents that protect some very useful improvements to these systems. Better systems of updating digital maps are at the center of U.S. Patent No. 8666434, titled Adaptive Location Updating. This patent protects a system that can update online mapping databases from user devices while placing less of a burden on device battery life. We also noticed an interesting new system of ranking news stories for readers protected by U.S. Patent No. 8667037, titled Identification and Ranking of News Stories of Interest. This system can collect similar articles into a hub page and rank them based on story importance and the reputation of the publisher.